Preparing for the Table for Shabu Shabu

This is a wonderful way for family dining. We first experienced it when we went to Japan and then subsequently at a large Asian marketplace just north of us.

When we decided to try this at home, I bought a separate burner I could put on the table (an electric one, as Belle didn’t want to use propane indoors). I found a few Shabu Shabu recipes in some Japanese cookbooks but they all had different suggestions, so I used a few of them as a template but then added my own ideas.

Usually we eat at the dining room table, but it’s much better if the burner is within reach of everyone, and as there were only three of us at this meal, I decided it would be better to eat at the smaller kitchen table.

Shabu Shabu means swish swish in Japanese, and it get its name from the sound of swishing the kombu around in the stock. It’s fun and very filling, as it’s a full three course meal, with meat (beef, shrimp) and for the vegetarians (tofu), vegetables and noodles. What could be more perfect then that?

The kombu in the water - swish swish!

The prep is easy and everyone does their own cooking, so that each item is prepared just the way everyone likes it. When it comes to the beef, this is particularly important, as I like my beef rare, Belle likes hers more rare then me and our older son likes his beef blue!

Everyone Cooks Their Own Food

This would work as a dinner party as well as long as everyone has their own dipping sauces.

Sesame Dipping Sauce

Feel free to add whatever vegetables are in season in your area, and whatever type of meat you prefer (you can also use pork or chicken) and the type of noodles you like.

The Udon Noodles

I have had Shabu Shabu with venison, pork, chicken and beef and with all sorts of vegetables. If you can’t find gai lan (Chinese broccoli) you can use rappini or even spinach. For the gai lan, oyster sauce for dipping  is also very popular in Chinese cuisine. I like using baby bok choy because they are smaller and more tender, but regular bok choy would work just as well – just cut them a little smaller.

Belle’s note: I just love Shabu Shabu – it’s always guaranteed to be a meal where everyone lingers around the table, chatting and eating up every scrap of food. The sesame dipping sauce is lovely; I also like to have a small bowl of Japanese soy sauce with a splash of sesame oil.

Shabu Shabu

2  4″ square sheets of kombu seaweed, wiped clean of excess salt and soaked in water for 30 minutes
7 cups of water

The Food:
1 lb flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
1 lb tiger shrimps, peeled & deveined
1 box silken extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes
5 baby bok choy, cut lengthwise in quarters
8 gai lan cut lengthwise in half
3-4 cups bean sprouts
6 scallions sliced into 1″ pieces on the bias
6 cups frozen udon noodles
1 cup sesame dipping sauce (recipe follows)
3/4 cup ponzu sauce
3/4 cup soy sauce
splash of pure sesame oil, to taste

Special equipment: Portable burner that can be used on your table.

Sesame Dipping Sauce
6 tbsp sesame paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar (not aged)
1 tbsp superfine sugar
1 tsp granulated chicken stock dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water


  1. Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Reserve.

Shabu Shabu

  1. Place the 7 cups of water into a large pot and put on the burner on your table. Drain the kombu and add to the water on the burner. Bring to a boil. Swish the kombu around in the water with chopsticks.
  2. Once the water and kombu are boiling, everyone can begin eating. Using chopsticks, have each person dip some beef or shrimp in the stock. Cook as long as you like, then dip in one of the sauces and eat.
  3. Continue this procedure with the rest of the beef, shrimp and tofu – you might want to place the tofu pieces into a big ladle first, so you don’t lose the pieces, which break up easily, in the stock.
  4. When the first batches of the beef, shrimp or tofu are cooked and everyone’s busy eating, add some of the vegetables. Bring back to the boil and let cook a few minutes.
  5. Eat the vegetables the same way with the dipping sauces. Continue cooking and eating the remainder of the beef, shrimp and tofu, adding more vegetables as the cooked vegetables get eaten.
  6. Once most of the beef, shrimp, tofu and vegetables have been cooked, you can add individual servings of udon noodles to the stock, which should now have a more broth-like taste to it. Use a ladle to immerse a small serving of noodles, or else remove the noodles using chopsticks or a slotted spoon.
  7. Place the serving of udon noodles into a small bowl and continue with the feast.
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