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 Shabu-Shabu

 Some 39 years ago, during a nine month cruise hauling cargo up and down the coast of South Vietnam, I took the first ship I commanded up Tokyo Bay (Sagami Wan) for a port visit to the city of Yokosuka.  The transit up the bay is a long one, especially in a ship that could only make 12 knots.  I remember having such a huge sense of relief upon our safe arrival that I got on the ship's announcing system and thanked all hands for their terrific performance during the 10 hour passage, which was in heavy traffic and fog.  I then repaired to the wardroom and told the officers that some place special for dinner that night was the first order ashore. 

The manager of the officers' club made reservations for us at what he described as the oldest family-owned fine dining restaurant in town, where generations of Japanese officials—especially naval officers—dined in understated elegance.  “I told them that you were a captain,” said the manager. Well, he got the title right, but I was only a lieutenant.  Unsure my guys were ready for this, I at least got them all in coat, tie and sox without holes.  After a drink at the club for fortification we headed out the gate in two mystery cabs. 

We had Shabu-Shabu!

Herbst aptly describes shabu-shabu as:  “A Japanese dish . . . consisting of paper thin slices of beef and raw vegetables cooked by each diner at the table in a pot of hot broth.  The freshly cook ingredients can be dipped into a variety of sauces provided for additional flavor.  Once all has been cooked and eaten, the broth, sometimes with noodles added, is then served.  The name is said to come from the sound that is made as the meat is gently swished through the broth.”

To make shabu-shabu at home you need a pot, a chafer, four soup bowls and lots of small dishes.   For the pot, a Dutch oven or large saucepan is needed to hold and boil about 10 ounces of broth per guest (max four quests per pot).  The pot should be wide enough to allow guests to add and remove meat and veggies with chopsticks or tongs as they dine. There is a specially designed pot for this dish that looks like a stainless steel Bundt pan.  The center chimney promotes fast boiling and equal heat distribution.  (About $40 at Sur La Table.) 

But a Dutch oven or large saucepan will do quite as well. 

A chafer is also needed, to be placed in the center of the table.  The Burton Butane Burner is ideal for this dish.  A Sterno chafer will do if you bring the pot to boil on the stovetop and then place it on the Sterno chafer to keep it hot.  Bring it to boil again as the meal progresses and before serving the broth. (Of course, if your kitchen has an island with a stovetop you can gather around that.)

What follows is my take on this dish:  The ingredients list is long but all can be prepped quickly with some diligent knife work and with a mandoline, if you have one. 

(Photos portray service for two.)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shabu-Shabu
Yield:  4 servings
See Abbreviations, if needed
For the broth
·   14oz          (1 can) beef broth
·   28oz          (2 cans) chicken broth
·   1/3 cup        chopped fresh cilantro or parsley 

For the meat
·   1 lb           beef tenderloin

For the veggie selection:  (adjust quantities and improvise selection, to taste)
·   1               Asian radish (daikon) or 5-7 regular radish
·   1               fresh, large fat carrot 
·   ½ head     Chinese cabbage 
·   8 stems     baby bok choy
·   12            broccolini or broccoli flowerets
·   3 cups       fresh spinach leaves, stemmed
·   6               spring onions
·   12             fresh asparagus tips
·   1/2 cup     fresh sprouts
·   2               red bell peppers
·   8               mushrooms of choice, sliced
·   1 block      tofu (optional)
·    3oz          Asian noodles or rice, but not both

For the dipping sauces
·  Select 3 or 4 prepared sauces, such as Hoisin, Szechwan, Mandarin Orange, Duck, 
    Sweet/Sour or Sweet Teriyaki
·  Mix 8 parts of really good soy sauce with 1 part of sesame oil 

1.  Trim the beef tenderloin, square up the sides and place it 
      in the freezer to harden and make it easier to slice
     o  Remove the beef from the freezer before it is frozen
     o  With a very sharp knife, cut into very thin slices
     o  Set aside in the refrigerator
2.  Place the broth in the selected pot, toss in the cilantro or parsley, and set aside
3.  Cut the hard veggies on a slant into thin slices 
4.  Cut a half head of cabbage, quarter it and separate the leaves
5.  Cut and trim the bok choy
6.  Cut broccolini flowerets off stem
7.  Wash, dry and de-stem the spinach leaves 
8.  Cut the spring onions into thin strips about 3 inch long
9.  Cut the bell peppers into strips about 3 x 1/3 inches
10.  Cut the optional tofu into 1 inch cubes (or whatever you do with that awful stuff)
11.  For the dipping sauces:
      o  Place each sauce in 2 sets of separate dipping dishes or ramekins
      o  If a sauce is too thick, cut it with rice vinegar, white wine vinegar
          or maybe sour cream, to taste.  Improvise but don't use soy sauce 
          as a thinner since all of these prepared sauces are already very salty
To serve
·  Each guest should have a bowl and chopsticks (or tongs) 
·  If serving rice, place some in each bowl
·  Each guest should have access to all the ingredients 
·  Each couple should have a set of dipping sauces 
·  Add to the boiling broth those veggies that take the longest to cook
   o  Everyone add ingredients in small amounts to cook, dip and sample
   o  The beef, spinach and onion shoots, for example, are shabu-shabu items. That is, 
       a couple of swishes and they are done
·  When the beef is gone and the veggie selection is diminished:
   o  Add the (noodles) and remaining veggies
   o  Bring the broth to boil then turn off the heat
   o  Ladle a portion of the broth, (noodles) and veggies into each bowl for soup
Note:  This can be messy fun:  Shabu-Shubuers who are not proficient with 
           chopsticks, but are determined to learn, should be fitted with bibs.



 

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