I had my first experience of Shabu Shabu last week. It's a Japanese 'hot-pot' style soup that you cook yourself, and has to be the healthiest meal I have ever eaten in a restaurant! I loved the experience and wanted to share it with you because there are various ways to recreate this dish at home. I can't really write it as a recipe because so much of this dish depends on the equipment you have, plus your personal preferences. Instead, I thought I would share my photos with you from the restaurant, then show you how I've interpreted this style of cooking in my own kitchen.
We ate this in a place called Wholefoods in London. There are a few branches in this country. Wholefoods is a wonderful experience in itself- an American supermarket with some fantastic produce and some stunning displays. I was like a kid in a sweet shop...it was so inspiring. This particular branch had a few casual dining areas offering various styles of food. There are independent restaurants that specialise in this cuisine too.
In order to eat Shabu Shabu, you sit at a bar. Each person has their own ceramic hob and a huge metal pot filled with a seasoned clear broth. You are automatically given a plate with noodles plus various fresh vegetables; leeks, broccoli, chinese leaves, carrot, mushrooms and tofu. Then, you choose a protein - finely sliced beef or pork, salmon or tofu.
As the broth starts to boil, you add the raw ingredients and "swish swish" them around with chopsticks. Shabu means "swish". The name comes from the sound of the cooking process.
Once cooked to your liking, you retrieve the food however you prefer -chopsticks, soup spoon or a strainer-type spoon.
You dip the cooked food in various sauces. We had a spicy ginger and a sweet plum variety. It was absolutely delicious and filling. I found the whole process really relaxing and fun...you kind of become totally engrossed in your own little Shabu world!
Of course, the whole time I was eating mine in the restaurant, I was thinking how I could make it myself! The first issue was the cooking vessel. Shabu Shabu pots are available online but are exorbitant- about £60-£100 each! I thought about using a fondue set but couldn't find a suitable one. If you have one lurking about in the back of a cupboard, it would be worth a try...but probably only suitable for 2 people. It's preferable to have your own pot.
Then I came across this in Robert Dyas! It's marketed as an 'Indian Curry Station' but it's absolutely perfect for this idea and probably many more...I'm so happy I can think laterally, it's very useful sometimes!
So, it's basically a mini electric hob which can heat up to 240 degrees. This is hot enough to actually cook on, not just keep dishes warm, although you can use it for this purpose. It comes with 4 lidded metal pots which are lovely and useful in their own right. The whole thing cost £39.
I can see many fun occasions with family and friends coming up...indoors and outdoors. I could probably start doing some little cookery demos too as it's so light and portable!
Anyway-it's absolutely perfect for homemade Shabu Shabu for 4 people.
Here's how my first attempt turned out!
My only disappointment with my restaurant experience was that the broth was so bland, it tasted like hot water. So, the first adaptation I made at home was to use some stock mixed with a little low salt soy sauce, pepper and herbs to make a tasty base. As the ingredients cooked, they further flavoured the broth. The beauty of my little pots is that I could remove them from the hob once everything was cooked, and enjoy the resulting hot-pot along with any remaining ingredients.
Your meal could be anything from 0pp-10pp depending on your personal preferences.
As I become more experimental, I'll update this post and show you some of my results.