Shabu Shabu

One of the things i have been doing since I retired is exploring different kinds of cuisine. More specifically, cuisine that may created at home (or wherever), is typically done alfresco, and is of a type that is healthy, spontaneous and well suited for small intimate meals.

This has led me to a couple of methods of table cooking that is very common throughout Asia and very uncommon in North America for people not of Asian ethnic descent.

Specifically, I’m talking about hotpots and wokking, and its variants, such as Thai (Korean) BBQ, Chinese hotpot, and the Japanese derivatives, shabu shabu and nabe, and yakitori.

all of these methods typically involve a small heat source: a small butane stove or an electric element, but charcoal grills for open air use (yakitori in Japanese, and in Thai BBQ designs) are common as well. Add a variety of fresh vegetables and thinly prepared meats, and combine with a selection of condiments and dipping sauces. The meal can be as simple or as elaborate as one desires.

Shabu shabu, nabe and Chinese hotpot involve the cooking of meat and veggies in a broth over the small stove. Chinese hotpot often uses a divided pot, allowing two different broths to be available simultaneously; each dinner guest can choose where they wish to cook their choices. The Japanese variants typically use a single pot, which may be a very elaborate earthenware family heirloom. As the cooking continues, the broth develops into a rich soup, which becomes part of the meal. Yakitori is a form of BBQ grilling, done on specific forms of hibachis, commonly.

Thai BBQ (Moo Kata) combines elements of both grilling and hotpot. A specialized cooking pot that combines a grilling “dome” surrounded by a “moat” is used. These are commonly worked over a charcoal grill base, but usually can work over a butane stove as well. The moat contains broth or water, into which vegetables or seafood, like shrimp, are placed. Meats and some vegetables are placed on the grilling dome, and the juices, fats and oils slide down the dome into the moat, enriching the soup that comes from the cooking.

Because these cooking methods are entwined with the meal rituals and cuisine favourites unique to each region, the menus and methods have evolved their own unique perspective on the process.

Unfortunately in North America, Thai pots and divided pots are not common, but are available via the internet and from specialty shops in larger cities. For ordinary hotpots, any appropriately sized cooking pot that can sit on a burner can do. Really, its about the cooking, not the pot.

The following youtube video is a wonderfully humorous look at the Japanese practice of shabu shabu, illustrating the cultural attention to detail that is so characteristically Japanese, along with their capacity for a rich sense of irony and humour. Enjoy!