I seemed to have lucked out with friends who entertain at home, as I am able to enjoy a cultural and dining experience right in their kitchens! In my last blog, I recalled my Swiss friend’s cheese fondue. This week, I thought about my Japanese friend’s tabletop communal meal, Shabu shabu. Several years later as I replicate the dish, I replaced some of the red meat with more vegetable options that is just as delicious. Similar in style to cheese fondue meal, Shabu shabu has a central pot that uses hot broth instead of cheese. Shabu shabu is also surrounded by a variety of side dishes.
Shabu shabu broth is made easily with water that is flavored with dried seaweed (kombu) and fish (bonito) flakes or powder. I shopped at my local Japanese market for the more traditional accompaniments such as chrysanthemum leaves, nori and kombu seaweed, but most large supermarkets carry dried seaweed, tofu, and enoki and shiitake mushrooms. Instead of investing in a bottled version of the dipping sauce, ponzu, I made my own version with soy sauce, mirin, orange juice, lemon and chili flakes – ingredients that I had at home.
Communal meals can be cobbled together quickly and stretched if more people are going to share the meal. Shopping and preparation can be done ahead of time. There are no measurements involved, and the meal can be an impromptu dinner if you have some of basic ingredients such as cabbage, mushrooms, and carrots in the refrigerator.
For the Broth:
- Bring 3 cups of water to boil, lower the heat and add ½ sheet of kombu
- Let the water simmer and then add 1 ½ tsp the bonito powder. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Strain the broth and discard the seaweed.
- Keep the broth on slow simmer.
- Add the vegetable such as carrots that take the longest to cook into the broth.
- Bring the broth to the table and each person dips the meat into the broth.
- Once the vegetables and meat are cooked to your desired level of crispness, remove them.
- Serve with the dipping sauce and bowls of cooked rice.