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How to Shabu Shabu? -- Shabu Shabu House

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It was thanks to my sweet friend, Mike, that I got turned on to Shabu Shabu House in Los Angeles in the first place. I was deeply skeptical, but he promised that if I gave it a couple of tries I would soon become an addict.

Well, that was an -- understatement.

But here's the deal. I don't know if I like it anywhere else.

I've tried it in San Francisco, and just across 2nd Street in Little Tokyo. I did not like them Sam I Am!

I speculated previously about whether it was the amazing sauces at Shabu Shabu House that had me hooked. The secret-recipe sesame sauce (it does have a little peanut in there, too) and the house-made ponzu are fantastic. I've been guilty of asking for thirds of the sesame sauce on more than one occasion.

Certainly, the quality of the beef plays a role here. It is well-marbled (you can ask for lean if you prefer, but why would you?) and it possesses a lot of good beefy flavor. These are not thin slices of generic meat.

You can in fact pre-order aged rib-eyes from Shabu Shabu House for the Fourth of July.

The vegetables, tofu, and udon noodles deserve a mention. I'm especially fond of the Chrysanthemum leaves. They have a satisfyingly bright bite.

Please be careful when cooking the udon! They are almost as hot as molten sugar and for me, rather unwieldy, flying through the air. Once a noodle flung back at my hand and I suffered a huge blister on my index finger.

This is dangerous food!

Someone once told me that the vegetables were more suited to the ponzu sauce and the beef to the sesame. Is this true?

I'll openly confess my lack of concrete knowledge regarding shabu shabu. I assume there is a refined technique out there -- the ultimate way to shabu shabu. I, however, am flying by the seat of my pants.

The dilemmas begin as soon as you sit down. What do you do with that pot of boiling water? Am I a fool for adding soy and chile oil? Do only the awkward novices add the sliced green onions to the water? Do the purists leave the water alone?

I am constantly checking out the action around me, searching for some insight. Ridiculously, I have never just asked the proprietor for his advice. And he is a pretty nice guy in the end.

So this is what I do. Please feel free to chime in and point out the many errors of my ways. I want help!

I add soy sauce, chile oil, shichimi togarashi, garlic, and sliced green onions to the pot. I do realize that those green onions are well suited to the ponzu, but my belly just can't handle raw onions the way it used to when I was a kid.

I throw in only some of the cabbage (I want it to last!), the carrots, the larger pieces of green onion, and some of the Chrysanthemum (another lasting issue). I hold off on the udon and the tofu. In go a few slices of beef.

It's embarrassing the way I dunk the beef in the sesame sauce. I know I'm over-doing it. I know people are looking askance. I can't help it. There is no polite dip with me. I completely submerge the meat, swirl it around, and then drop it on the mound of rice, hoping that enough sauce falls off the meat to drench the rice, but that enough still remains on the meat, for the perfect bite. Shake over a little more shichimi and/or drizzle a little chile oil, and place in mouth.

It's magnificent.

I continue on in this manner, swirling, swishing, dipping, dunking.

At one point in my life, I thought it was absurd to go to a restaurant to cook your own food. Silly girl, this is way too much fun!

In the end, after I have cooked the tofu, and hopefully avoided scalding myself with wet noodles, finished the meat and nearly all of the rice, I ask for a spoon.

The one time that A. came with me to Shabu Shabu House he asked me if I knew what I was doing.

Certainly not, but I don't care. I cannot just turn my head as the broth that I have brewed is carted away. For that is what has happened. After all that cooking the boiling water has become a wondrous, garlicky, beef broth. I spoon a little over the remaining grains of rice and happily slurp it up, my face glistening with perspiration.

Jacqueline F.
Posted with pictures here:
http://rocketlunch.blogspot.com/

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Shabu Shabu House Restaurant
127 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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  1. Gotta admit, I've always wondered the same thing myself. I notice most Japanese folk dipping the beef in the sesame sauce, and the vegetables in the ponzu. The sliced green onions, daikon, and garlic are usually added to the sauces. And the udon is the last thing they cook/eat. I dunk the udon in the ponzu after it's cooked.

    1. It's your food, you should certainly be able to eat it the way you want to.

      I wouldn't worry about it at all. As long as you've enjoyed your dining experience, everything's good in the universe.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        AMEN!!

        1. re: ipsedixit

          At the same time, it's good to know the "traditional" way to eat it, and to show some respect. Especially when considering how important politeness and protocol are in the Japanese culture, "do what you want" doesn't always fly, and it helps to know what to do in those situations.

        2. I was wondering the same thing today while staring at the crazy line building up in front of Shabu Shabu House an hour before they opened! I love it but am also not sure if I'm doing it right. At Shabu-tatsu in NYC they give you a small bowl of salt or something at the end. Are you supposed 'make soup' with this? Step by step instructions would be great to know and then, of course, we can customize! And yeah, sesame sauce refills for sure.

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          Shabu Shabu House Restaurant
          127 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012

          1. You can, and should eat it however you like it, but it would seem very odd to a Japanese person to put any seasoning in the water. And yes, the green onion is for the ponzu, but go ahead and put it in there if you like! Most people tend to dip the veggies in ponzu more often than goma-dare (sesame) but that's just a matter of personal preference, as is how much sauce you use. If you like the sesame sauce that much, you should buy a bottle for your house at the Japanese grocer! It may not be as good as made-from-scratch, but it's good for lots of other things!

            1. Here's a site you might want to consult for your next visit.
              http://japanesefood.about.com/od/onep...

              I'm surprised there isn't more instruction on the best way to prepare your shabu-shabu. While you are free to do as you please with your shabu-shabu, there are a number of loose guidelines to follow in order to best enjoy the dish as it's suppose to be eaten. If you're ever invited over someone's house for shabu-shabu or other Japanese nabe dish, you might end up insulting the person serving you by your method, so proceed with caution if you get accustomed to your approach.

              Also, if you want a more traditional shabu-shabu experience, try Kagaya.

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              Kagaya
              418 E. 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012