How to Cook Shabu Shabu Hotpot

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Last Updated on May 30, 2022 by Share My Kitchen

Shabu Shabu is a well-known Japanese-style hotpot that uses meat and various vegetables, then cooked in a rich broth called Kombu Dashi. Everyone sitting at the table takes part in the cooking process and can enjoy the different dip sauces. It’s casual and intimate, but it’s a lot of fun.

It’s the holiday season, and this is the perfect time to gather with family and friends. So, what is the best Japanese dish for this occasion? Shabu Shabu! 

What is Shabu Shabu?

Shabu Shabu is one of the most popular Japanese hot pot dishes, along with Sukiyaki. The term “shabu shabu” is a Japanese onomatopoeia. It is the sound you make when you stir the meat and vegetables using your chopsticks, and they ‘swish-swish’ in the hot pot. This is a great meal because everyone sits around the hot pot table, eats at the same time, cooks together, and has a lovely chat. It’s a communal dining experience that encourages good appetites and brings people closer together.

How to Properly Prepare and Eat Shabu Shabu

In the middle of the table is an earthenware pot called donabe (Tu Guo), and it is set up on a portable gas stove. The inside is a simple, but umami-packed Japanese stock called Kombu Dashi. Then, there are two large plates used to serve the uncooked ingredients: one for thinly sliced, well-marbled beef (or pork), and one for vegetables and tofu.

Each person receives a platter of ingredients along with dipping sauces. There are usually two types of sauce: sesame and ponzu.

After everyone has sat down, you will begin to cook with hard vegetables and tofu. Then, you can cook the softer vegetables. Cooking thin slices of meat takes only a few seconds. You would grab a piece of meat with the communal chopsticks, and stir in the broth for a few seconds before transferring it to your own bowl of dipping sauce.

You can also dip tofu, cooked vegetables, and meat into your sesame or ponzu sauce. Try dipping tofu and meat in sesame sauce, and vegetables in ponzu sauce.

While you eat, you can continue cooking. Remember that you will need to use a set of communal chopsticks for cooking and serving. To get a better taste, ensure you remove any skim scum and foam from the surface of your food while cooking.

After all the ingredients have been cooked and removed from the hot pot, you may cook the udon noodles in the remaining broth. Enjoy!

The staff at a shabu-shabu restaurant will cook some ingredients to help you get started. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask. This post is for those who are at home making the hot pot, and hopefully, it will provide all you need to have a great first Shabu Shabu experience.

Key Shabu Shabu Ingredients and Alternatives

1. Kombu dashi

There are many types of dashi (broth), but it is preferable to use kombu (kelp) dashi for Shabu Shabu. It’s vegetarian and very easy to make. Simply add a small piece of kombu to a pot of boiling water, and let it simmer for the flavor to come through. That’s it!

2. Vegetables & Mushrooms

Napa cabbage, shungiku (chrysanthemum greens or tong ho), long green onion (negi), and carrot are the most common vegetables used in shabu shabu. You can also add other vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, etc. It’s worth going to the Asian grocery store to find some more difficult-to-find ingredients, such as shungiku or long green onions. However, most vegetables are available in Korean and Chinese grocery stores. You may also be able to find napa cabbage at major grocery stores such as Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, etc.

This recipe often uses mushrooms, including shiitake, enoki, and shimeji. You may also add other types of mushrooms, such as button mushrooms. This is mainly to enjoy the variety of textures.

3. Thinly sliced meat: beef/pork

The quality of the meat is what makes shabu-shabu different from when you are outside Japan. It is sometimes difficult to find the same quality meat in the US without paying a high cost. Japan’s supermarkets sell high-quality beef at an affordable price. But, we can make it work!

You won’t find thinly sliced meat at your local supermarket unless there is a Japanese grocery store nearby. Therefore, you will need to slice the meat yourself.

Prepare Shabu Shabu in Donabe

Shabu Shabu is made with kombu dashi, and cooked in a donabe (Tu Guo), an earthenware pot, on a portable stove. You can also use any large pot or a Dutch oven if you don’t have one. The Dutch oven and donabe keep the contents warm for long periods of time, so they are perfect for making hot pot. Now is a great time to use a donabe if you own one. However, before you can start using it, you need to season it.

Shabu-Shabu: An Easy, Simple, and Healthy Meal

If you are busy with other responsibilities, like being a mom, you can make hot pot all year. It’s so easy to prepare, and you won’t have to cook before it is time for dinner. You just need to prepare the ingredients, do some chopping, and then let everyone cook together at the table.

Moreover, the hot pot does not use any oil because all the ingredients have been cooked in broth. This is a low-fat, delicious meal that allows you to eat lots of vegetables. So, enjoy shabu-shabu throughout the year!

Shabu-shabu Recipe


  • 1 kombu (dried kelp) (10 g; 3 inches x 3 inches, 7.5 x 7.5 cm)
  • 1 serving udon noodles (3 oz/90 g dry udon noodles; 8.8 oz/250 g frozen/boiled udon noodles)
  • 8 leaves napa cabbage (12 oz, 340 g)
  • ½ bunch shungiku (tong ho/garland chrysanthemum) (4 oz, 113 g)
  • 1 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion) (4 oz, 113 g; or use the white part of a leek or 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 (momen dofu) (14 oz, 396 g)
  • 1 lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye) (4-5 oz/113-140 g per person)

For Serving

  • 2 inches daikon radish (5 oz, 143 g)
  • 2 green onions/scallions (0.9 oz, 25 g)
  • shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice)
  • Sesame Dipping Sauce (homemade or store-bought)
  • ponzu


  1. Get all the ingredients you need.

How to Make the Homemade Ponzu and Sesame Sauces

  1. You can look up the recipe to make your own sesame and ponzu dipping sauces. The sauces can also be made ahead of time.

How to Prepare the Broth

  1. Two-thirds of the water should be added to a donabe clay pot or Dutch oven pot. Then, add the kombu in the pot and let it sit in the water for 30 minutes. In the meantime, you can prepare the rest of your ingredients.

How to Prepare the Other Ingredients

  1. Follow the directions to prepare the udon noodles. Reheat the frozen noodles for one minute in boiling water. Then, transfer them to iced water to stop it from cooking and drain properly. Place the noodles on a plate and set aside. After all other ingredients have been cooked, you will finish the meal with the udon.
  2. The napa cabbage leaves should be cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces. After that, each piece should be cut in half or thirds.
  3. The shungiku can be cut into pieces of approximately 2-inches (5 cm).
  4. Only the white part of the Tokyo negi (or leek, or green onions) is used. You need to cut it diagonally into pieces of 1/2 inch (1.3cm) thick.
  5. Rinse the enoki and shimeji mushrooms before using them. Throw away the root ends of both mushrooms, then cut them into smaller chunks.
  6. You can also cut the stems off the shiitake mushrooms and make a decorative cutting on the cap (optional).
  7. Then, cut the carrot into 1/4-inch pieces. You can also use a vegetable cutter if you wish to make a flower shape.
  8. You can cut the carrot into 1/4-inch pieces. You can also use a vegetable cutter if you wish to make a flower shape.
  9. Place all ingredients on a serving platter.
  10. Peel the daikon, then grate it with a grater. Then, squeeze the grated daikon to remove the majority of the liquid, and place it in a small bowl.
  11. Next, cut the green onions into thin rounds, and place them in a bowl.
  12. Arrange the shichimi-togarashi in a bowl (optional). Then, place the thinly sliced beef on a plate.

How to Cook the Shabu Shabu

  1. Place a portable gas stove on the table, and put the donabe pot on it. Place the plates with the ingredients on the table. Then, each person will get their own bowls with sesame and ponzu sauce. You can also give everyone an extra bowl, so they can use it to cool their food.
  2. Bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat. Then, remove the kombu just before the water boils. Otherwise, the water will become slimy.
  3. You can now add the tofu, tough parts of napa cabbage and shungiku, negi, carrots, and some mushrooms. However, you don’t need to add all of the ingredients at once. If you prefer, you can cook them in small batches. Then, cover the pot to cook for 10 minutes.

How to Eat the Shabu Shabu

  1. While the food is cooking, you can make your dipping sauces. Add the grated daikon, shichimi togarashi, and the green onion into the ponzu. Then, add the green onions to the sesame sauce.
  2. Once you are ready to eat the meat, grab a thinly sliced piece of beef using a set of communal chopsticks. Then, stir or “swish” the meat in the boiling broth. Cook the meat for about 20-30 seconds, or until it is no longer pink. Just be careful not to overcook them.
  3. When the vegetables and beef are cooked, take them out of the pot and dip them in the sesame or ponzu sauce.
  4. Next, add the other ingredients to the boiling broth as you need, and let it simmer for a few more minutes. Remove any scum and foam from the surface while you cook. To make it easy to skim while you cook, prepare a fine-mesh skimmer and a 2-cup measuring cup or bowl with water. You can use the water from the measuring cup to help you clean the skimmer. Keep the broth as clean as possible.
  5. Once all ingredients have been cooked, skim the broth one last time and prepare the udon noodles. A hot pot meal usually ends with udon noodles or porridge.
  6. Then, add the udon noodles in a pot, and reheat it for about 1-2 minutes. Season the broth lightly with salt and white pepper (optional).
  7. Water down the individual bowls of ponzu sauce with the broth, then serve the udon noodles in every bowl.

How to Properly Store

  1. The leftovers can be kept in an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to a month.

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