Shabu Shabu Recipe: Way To The Quintessence of Japanese Cuisine

If you have ever traveled to Japan, especially in these cold winter months, trying Japanese hot pots (nabemono) is definitely a must. Nothing is more wonderful than enjoying the nabemono in the early winter days when the temperature goes down to nearly 10 degrees C. Of all the nabemono types, Shabu-shabu may be the most favorable. Besides the excellent flavor, this hot pot is also favored by the simplicity in the ingredients and preparation. As a result, Japanese shabu shabu is not necessarily cooked in the restaurant. Now, Question Japan will show you the easy shabu shabu recipe, so that you can cook shabu shabu at home

Shabu shabu recipe: the “national” hot pot of Japan

What is shabu shabu?

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces. The term is onomatopoeic, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot. 

shabu shabu recipe

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces

Although known as a Japanese dish, in fact, Shabu Shabu has its roots from Chinese Shuan yangrou. Due to the terrain and weather condition in grassland, which advantages nomadic forms, the main ingredient of Shuan yangrou is thin and large ​​lamb slices. As a result, this dish had not gained popularity in Japan, since the Suehiro restaurant in Osaka thought about adapt this dish to suit the taste of Japanese in 1952. They replaced lamb with beef – one of the most popular meat and added typical spices to create a more delicious flavor. With a familiar taste and popular ingredients, this dish quickly became an indispensable feature when it comes to Japanese hotpot, and later it became internationally popular.

Shabu shabu equipment

Before we go further to shabu shabu recipe, let’s take a look at pieces of equipment needed to make shabu shabu at home.

Portable burner

What’s so unique about the shabu-shabu experience is that tabletop stove. So you’ll need one to place on top of your table. If necessary, provide two stoves so you can simmer more than one type of soup for your diners. If you have it, a fondue pot is a great pot to use for a shabu-shabu. 

shabu shabu dipping sauce

Portable electric cooktop with one burner

Shabu shabu pot

The pot in which shabu shabu is cooked is called a nabe. There are a couple of main types of nabe pots.


This is a clay earthenware pot. The designs can be quite intricate and beautiful. The clay material allows the pot to retain heat for a long time even after turning off the burner.

shabu shabu recipe

Earthen Pink Cherry Blossom and Traditional Pattern Japanese clay Pot


This is a cast iron, steel, or even sometimes aluminum pot. These are the type you’ll see at restaurants most frequently. However, if you visit a small, boutique, traditional Japanese restaurant you’ll likely see the clay donabe pot.

shabu shabu

Different sizes of tetsunabe pot

Tongs and ladles

The tongs will help the diners add ingredients to the simmering broth while the ladle will ensure that anyone who wants some soup can scoop some into their bowls and fish out any ingredients floating in the broth. 

shabu shabu

Serving spoons, tongs, ladles


Shabu shabu recipe

Shabu shabu ingredients

1 kombu (dried kelp) (10 g, 3″ x 3″ or 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm)

Kombu kelp

1 package udon noodles (9 oz/250 g) 

ingredients for udon noodle

8 leaves napa cabbage (12 oz/340 g)

½ bunch shungiku (Tong Ho/Garland Chrysanthemum) (4 oz/113 g)

1 Negi/Long Green Onion (4 oz/113 g)(Use 2 green onions)

1 package enoki mushrooms (7 oz/200 g)

1 package shimeji mushrooms (3.5 oz/100 g)

4 shiitake mushrooms (2.3 oz/65 g)

2 inches carrot (2.3 oz/65 g)

1 package medium firm tofu (14 oz/396 g)

Vegetable set for shabu shabu

1 lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye) (450 g)(Remember 4-5 oz/113-140 g per person)

Thinly sliced meat

Of course, beef is the main ingredient of Japanese shabu shabu, but people may replace beef with pork or chicken in some restaurants. If the meat used in shabu-shabu is beef, then it is called gyu-shabu, and if the meat is pork, it is called buta-shabu.

How to cook shabu shabu?

  1. Fill the pot two-thirds full with water. Add kombu and soak in water for at least 30 minutes. 
  2. Cut meat into the size you like. Cut cabbage and Shungiku into 2″ width pieces, slice white long onion diagonally, cut off the stems of Shiitake mushrooms.
  3. Set a portable gas burner and put the pot on the burner. Place platters with ingredients on the table. 
  4. Bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat. Take out the kombu right before water starts to boil (otherwise, the water gets slimy).
  5. Add the tofu, the tough part of napa cabbage and shungiku, negi, carrots, and some mushrooms. You don’t have to put all the ingredients and cook in batches. Cover to cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the meat later as it is quickly cooked.

Shabu shabu dipping sauces 

While we are waiting for the food to be cooked, let’s prepare shabu shabu sauces


This is more of a condiment than a dipping sauce. It’s grated onion or daikon radish with soy sauce… sometimes sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. This can sometimes be a bit different between shabu-shabu shops — each trying to make themselves unique from the others.

shabu shabu sauce

Yakumi: Condiments with a Healthy Twist


Ponzu is a citrus, soy sauce, and vinegar mixture. It’s really light tasting and adds a bit of punch to the shabu-shabu. Some ponzu will also have ginger added (or a few slices of pickled ginger on the side).

Ponzu sauce


Gomadare is a sesame dressing-like sauce, very much like salad dressing, but a bit runnier. It’s mashed sesame seeds soy sauce, vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sugar and other ingredients. The hot pot buffet restaurants will cheat and use sesame salad dressing though. If you want a more traditional flavor, go elsewhere.

Gomadare: Japanese sesame sauce

How to eat shabu shabu?

After preparing shabu shabu dipping sauces, it ‘s time to enjoy the meal. Just like other nabemono, we cook and enjoy shabu shabu at the same time. However, you should bear in mind these tips below:

  • When you want to eat meat, pick up a slice of thinly sliced beef with a set of communal chopsticks and stir the meat in the boiling broth to cook for 10 seconds, or until the meat is no longer pink. Do not overcook the meat.
  • Take out the cooked beef and vegetables from the pot when they are done, and dip the food in ponzu, yakumi or sesame sauce.  You can dicide your own sauce choices, but it is advisible to dip certain type of food into certain type of sauce to get the best flavour. Ponzu is traditionally used for vegetables, and creamy sesame is traditionally used for meat.
  • Normally, the cooked meat, vegetables and rice or noodles are put in separate plates. However, you should put cooked meat and vegetables onto rice or noodle, so that they can absorb the broth to get the most delicious flavor.


Frequently asked questions about shabu shabu recipe

Is shabu shabu healthy?

Shabu Shabu is an extremely healthy dish containing a balance of proteins and vitamins with no grease, oil, or added MSG. The boiling water releases a majority of the fat in the meat, and with a balanced meal of vegetables and rice, it’s the perfect choice for the health conscious.

What is the best meat for shabu shabu?

Beef and pork are the most common meats used in shabu-shabu, but you may also use chicken and lamb. Higher-end restaurants in Japan only serve beef for shabu-shabu. Marbled beef is the top choice, but some serve leaner cuts such as shoulder and loin

Final words

Shabu shabu hot pot is not only delicious but also healthy. It represents the quintessence of Japanese cuisine. If you plan to visit Japan, do not miss the opportunity to experience some of the finest shabu shabu here. And if you come back home and still miss this hot pot, just follow our easy shabu shabu recipe and enjoy your meal in a family or friend reunion. It is not a bad idea, right? 

About Haruto Suzuki

Haruto Suzuki is a senior food and drinks blogger at Question Japan. He has a background in F&B industry and also experience of running his own Japanese restaurant in Tokyo for over 10 years. Therefore, he has a great knowledge of Japanese cuisine. So if you want to discover Japan through its unique traditional cuisine, Haruto Suzuki’s blog will be a great source of information for you.