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Jul 27, 2006 02:24 AM

Shabu shabu - Korean vs. Japanese vs. other

A poster on the SF board asked about the difference between Japanese and Korean shabu shabu. This link says

"The thin slices of beef are pretty much the same as those used in Japanese style shabu shabu, however instead of being cooked in hot water the meat is cooked in a spicy soup with leeks, potatoes, and some other vegetables. "

In the SF board discussion, Umetaro wrote:

>>> If you're used to eating Korean shabu-shabu, Japanese shabu-shabu might seem a little bland to you. It lacks the gochugaru and kimchi that'll turn your broth red and dilate your dermal capillaries. K shabu-shabu is also eaten sort of like a nabe... you don't do much with the broth afterwards in J shabu-shabu. Also, J shabu shabu uses different dipping sauces... one is shoyu based and the other is goma based.

Some random factoids... shabu-shabu is of Mongolian origin and was popularized in Japan after WWII. The word "shabu-shabu" is an onomatopoeia representing the sound meat makes when swished through the bubbling water. And, if you're eating enoki mushrooms, make sure you chew them and not swallow them whole. <<<


I've never had shabu shabu of any type. Can you tell me a little about eating this? Can one person have shabu shabu or do you need a group?

Are there other country variations on Shabu Shabu besides Korean and Japanese?

For the sake of comparison, here's a recipe for Japanese shabu shabu.

Here's a Korean recipe

Here's a wikipedi article on shabu shabu

Thanks for any information.

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  1. I think nabe (pot) dishes are really more suited to a group as served at shabu shabu restaurants, though at fancy dinners/hotels when served as part of a meal, shabu shabu is often made in individual servings.

    I once read a Japanese article for class on nabe as being something which represent a communal experience and bring people closer together as a family or group, and I can definately relate with that as an experience.

    1. There's of course, the Chinese version...which can be in a clear seasoned broth (sometimes with medicinal herbs, sometimes not), the spicy chinese version (ma la huo guo), and lamb hot pot...the only version I've had was with plenty of dark medicinal herbs.

      The Chinese version differs from the Japanese version in that the Chinese version, you're expected to drink the soup and in the Japanese version, you don't drink the soup. The dipping sauces are also different. The japanese version has one with ground roasted sesame (Shabuway the bay area does it well) and the other shoyu based. The Chinese version includes BBQ sauce (different from western BBQ), soy sauce, and even raw egg.

      1. Chinese version, not coincidentally, is often called "Mongolian hotpot".

        1. Thai style shabu-shabu is popular at Thai restaurants in Japan. (They just call it Thai-shabu). The last couple of times I was in Bangkok, I saw Thai-shabu places that seem to be catering to Japanese tourists, but locals were there too.

          The typical sauce in Japanese shabu-shabu besides "goma" is not soy sauce, but ponzu. You usually add grated ginger and diced long onion.

          The last few years, there seems to have been a slight boom in pork shabu-shabu, called "buta-shabu". Not sure if that's still happening.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Silverjay

            Actually, you can't have a shabu-shabu discussion without at least mentioning "no-pan-shabu", which is the bastardization of the phrase "no pants shabu-shabu". These were sordid establishments where the female servers wore skirts with, underwear. Mirrors were conveniently arranged around the underside of the table for perverted clientele to take a gander...There was a small political scandel in the early 90's on these places- usually in Ginza.

          2. One of our better local Vietnamese places (Pho88 in Lowell, MA) serves a wonderful shabu-shabu. They offer 4 broths, including an extremely spicy kim-chee broth, and a bland, but decent chicken broth. The chicken is home-made and nicely fatty. I prefer my chicken soup more intense, but for shabu-shabu purposes, it's perfectly usable. They offer only one soy sauce for dipping - it's not a Japanese shoyu, more likely a Chinese light sauce.

            I don't know if anything makes this particularly Vietnamese, but they do serve a whole bunch of watercress on their vegetable tray - that would be unusual in a Japanese place. They have a nice set of fish options - chunks of salmon, cod, squid, scallops, and several different styles of fish cakes. The fish balls and specific cakes may be specifically Vietnamese, but overall, it's not that different.

            The kim-chee soup is so spicy that it's pretty much undrinkable to begin with, but it tastes so good at the end that it's hard to resist. One of those things where you're wiping the sweat off your brow and feeling nice and warm all over.

            Shabu-shabu and sukiyaki are both group eats, from my perspective. Nothing like a family or bunch of friends talking and cooking and dipping and noshing... I've seen the Japanese specialty houses with the individual stations around a horseshoe bar, but I just associate these foods with family sitting around a table. You just couldn't get the variety ordering for one person.