Hotpot delights: Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki


Shabu Shabu pot with typical ingredients

Around the end of the 1800s, eating meat became popular in Japan. It was considered a high-end and modern type of food. Nowadays, the famous Japanese ‘wagyu’ meats are considered some of the absolute best worldwide. This exquisitely marbled, melt-in-the-mouth meat can be enjoyed in various ways, including via the beloved (especially in winter) hotpot dishes ‘Shabu Shabu’ and ‘Sukiyaki’.


Shabu Shabu

Marbled meat being dipped in shabu shabu broth

Shabu Shabu is a type of hotpot with typically a clear, subtly flavored broth. It will usually include vegetables, tofu, and shirataki noodles (a type of gelatinous, thin, glassy noodles made of ‘konjac yam’). The meat, whether it is or isn’t wagyu (or sometimes pork), is cut into paper-thin slices and is brought out on the side. One then dips the meat into the boiling broth for a few seconds to (partially) cook it, whereupon it is to be dipped in a flavourful sauce of choice, such as a citrusy ‘ponzu’ sauce, before eating. Shabu shabu is somewhat reminiscent of the European style fondue.


Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki with egg on the side

Sukiyaki is similar to Shabu Shabu, as it is also cooked in a hotpot and uses similar ingredients like tofu and vegetables. The main differences however, are the cooking style and broth. The broth is called ‘warishita’, and is a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sugar (with the possible addition of sake and dashi stock). The cooking depends on the style: Kansai area style or Kanto area style. With the Kansai style, the meat is partially cooked first, then topped with warishita to finish the cooking process, and lastly the other ingredients are added to the dish. Is it cooked in the Kanto style, then all the ingredients will be added and simmered together simultaneously. The dipping sauce for the meat for either style of sukiyaki is not so much a sauce, but a beaten fresh raw egg, which is said to enhance the inherent flavour and richness of the beef. These days, sukiyaki can also include such ingredients as chicken, fish or udon noodles.

What do you think? Would you try either or both, or have you already had the pleasure of eating them before?

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