Bubbling Beef-in-a-Pot

Shabu Shabu

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

The Japanese language is filled with words that sound like their meanings. Shabu Shabu mimics the sound of meat being swished through bubbling liquid and thus becomes the name for this enticing meal-in-a-pot. In Japan this is considered an extravagant dish, to be either enjoyed in restaurants devoted to beef dishes, or made at home for some special occasion. Thankfully, in the United States the price of top-quality beef isn’t as prohibitive as it is in Japan. You’ll need tissue-thin slices of lightly marbled sirloin that will cook instantaneously but not toughen. Either you or your butcher will have to partially freeze the meat to facilitate slicing.


  • pounds very thinly sliced sirloin beef
  • ¾ pound hakusai (Chinese cabbage)
  • 4–6 ounces shungiku (edible chrysanthemum leaves) OR fresh spinach
  • 6–7 scallions (white and green parts)
  • 8–10 ounces fresh mushrooms (button, dark shiitaké, or slender white enokidake)
  • 4 ounces harusamé (“spring rain” cellophane noodles)
  • 1 block yaki-dōfu (grilled bean curd)

Bubbling Broth

  • 20–25 square inches kombu (dried kelp for stock making)
  • 3 cups cold water

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 ½ tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • cup soy sauce


Arrange the slices of beef attractively on a large platter. The slices should be laid domino style, one slice leaning slightly upon another, for greater ease later in cooking.

All the vegetable ingredients are probably best arranged on a separate platter. Rinse the cabbage under cold water to remove any residual gritty material. Drain and slice it into -inch lengths. Mound these toward the back of your platter. Rinse the chrysanthemum leaves well under cold water and shake dry. Trim off any tough stems and discard any flowering buds. If using spinach, rinse well, shake dry, and trim away tough stems. Lay the green leaves to one side of the serving platter, leaning them against the pile of cabbage. Rinse and trim the scallions, cutting them into 2-inch lengths. Stack these near the cabbage. Trim the mushroom stems and discard any moldy tips. With a damp cloth, wipe the mushroom caps and slice them in half if small, or into quarters if large. If using enokidaké mushrooms, rinse the clump under cold water, shake dry, and remove the lower half of the stems. Mound the mushrooms against the green chrysanthemum or spinach leaves. Soak the harusamé noodles in warm water to cover for 10 minutes. Drain the softened noodles and place them near the mushrooms. Drain the grilled bean curd and slice it in half, lengthwise. Cut across five times to yield twelve small rectangular blocks. Stack these near the scallions.

Lay the kelp in your cooking vessel and pour in the cold water. Over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Remove the kelp (and save for use in one of the recipes or discard, as you like) and keep the broth at a steady bubble.

In a clean dry skillet, roast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat for 30–40 seconds until they begin to color slightly or a few pop. Shake the pan to keep the seeds in motion. Empty them onto a clean, dry cutting board and mince the seeds to crack them. Place the cracked seeds in a shallow bowl and add the lime juice and soy sauce, stirring to mix.

Bring the bubbling pot to the table and keep the liquid cooking on a portable stove unit. Place the platters of meat and vegetables on the table. Each diner should have a small bowl with some of the dipping sauce in it.

The scallions, mushrooms, and bean curd require 3–4 minutes’ cooking in the simmering pot, the cabbage and chrysanthemum or spinach leaves just 1 minute or so. The noodles are best added last, to soak up the complex flavors of the broth. The beef is merely swished in the broth and extracted immediately. The diners help themselves to what they want from the main pot, dip it into their bowls of sauce, and eat. (If froth accumulates around the edge of your pot as the meat and vegetables cook, skim it away.) The resulting broth is sometimes ladled into the remains of the dipping sauce and drunk as a soup at the conclusion of the meal.