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.
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
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.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.