How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven

How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven

Publish-date: Sep 05 2016 Update-date: Jun 05 2020

What is shabu-shabu? Simply put, this mysteriously-named dish is a popular style of nabemono, or Japanese hot pot, featuring paper-thin slices of tender meat and fresh vegetables cooked together in a large open pot. Unlike other types of hot pot, where the ingredients are cooked together before serving, shabu-shabu ingredients are served raw and cooked tableside during the meal, similar to fondue.

This particular way of eating hot pot dining originated in Osaka during the 1950s but has since spread all across Japan and even to other countries. It gets its name from the Japanese onomatopoeia for “swish, swish,” as each piece of meat is lightly swished around in boiling broth before eating.

Shabu-shabu can be eaten at specialty restaurants or enjoyed at home, especially during the winter, but a summer version called hiyashi shabu or rei shabu (chilled shabu-shabu) also exists.

How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven

The best thing about shabu-shabu is that the ingredients can be customized to one’s own taste and preferences, from a decadent meal of A5-ranked wagyu beef to a healthy vegetarian spread full of fresh produce.

Learn how to eat shabu shabu like a master with this video, and read on for more information.

Shabu Shabu Equipment

The main items required for shabu-shabu are a large Japanese pot called a nabe and a way to cook the meal tableside. For home cooking, a portable burner or hot plate works, while many shabu-shabu specialty restaurants actually have induction heating (IH) cooktops built directly into their tables.

How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven

It is useful to keep a ladle handy to scoop out hard-to-pick-up items like noodles as well as a small skimmer to skim froth from the surface of the broth during cooking. When dining in a group, it’s also polite to use a pair of cooking and serving chopsticks separate from everyone’s own chopsticks, as touching communal food with one’s personal chopsticks can be considered rude outside of an informal family meal. In addition, each diner should have their own bowls of dipping sauce to customize to their individual tastes.

Shabu Shabu Ingredients

 Shabu Shabu Ingredients

The traditional broth for shabu-shabu is a simple dashi made from kombu seaweed, with no additional flavors added since the meat and vegetables are dipped in sauce before eating. However, it’s becoming more popular for restaurants to offer shabu shabu with flavored hot pot broth such as kimchi broth, tomato dashi, and even soy collagen broth. A split nabe pot with a divider down the center can also be used to cook with two different kinds of broth at once.

Shabu-shabu is eaten with a variety of thinly sliced meats and fresh vegetables. Paper-thin slices of beef and pork are the most common offerings, but chicken, seafood, and even lamb are served in some restaurants. Tofu is another good protein option that is also suitable for vegetarians. For the vegetables, napa cabbage, onion, carrot, and mushrooms are fairly standard, in addition to seasonal produce like tender spring greens, sweet summer corn, and autumn yams.

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One thing about how to eat shabu-shabu which sets it apart from other kinds of Japanese hot pot meals is that it involves dipping meat and vegetables into a large variety of assorted sauces.  The two main styles of shabu-shabu dipping sauce are ponzu, a citrusy soy sauce, and goma-tare, a type of sesame sauce. Condiments like sliced green onions, grated daikon radish, shichimi pepper, and chili oil can all be added to customize the flavor.

Shabu-shabu is usually enjoyed with a bowl of rice. Typically, plain steamed white rice is offered, but sprouted brown rice is a good choice for a healthier option. Noodles can also be enjoyed with shabu-shabu such as harusame, a type of thin glass noodle, or thick udon noodles, which can be added to the soup pot at the end of the meal.

Browse Udon Noodle Restaurants in Japan

How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven

How to Eat Shabu-shabu

 How to Eat Shabu-shabu

First, the server will bring a pot of broth to the table. Cover the nabe pot and allow the broth to come to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer for cooking. During the meal, try to keep the broth at a low boil to prevent overcooking.

Then, add vegetables to the pot and cook briefly to add flavor to the broth. Harder vegetables like carrots will take longer to cook, while leafy vegetables tend to cook more quickly.

Next, cook the meat and seafood, swishing the pieces lightly through the broth or submerging them briefly. Cook only enough meat at a time for one or two bites, rather than trying to cook everything at once. Shabu-shabu should be enjoyed like fondue, with the ingredients cooked over the course of the meal. In addition, adding too many items to the nabe pot at once can lower the temperature of the boiling broth and interrupt cooking.

How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven

Remove the cooked meat and vegetables from the pot and dip them into the various sauces. Generally, ponzu is used for vegetables and sesame sauce for meat, although this can be varied according to one’s own personal tastes.

Enjoy the cooked meat and vegetables dipped simply in sauce, or eat them together with rice.At the end of the meal, rice or udon noodles mixed with raw beaten egg can be added to the broth for everyone to share as a finisher.

How to cook Shabu-Shabu

 How to cook Shabu-Shabu


1 cut of kombu (dried kelp) (about 10 g) 
1/4 napa cabbage (about 350 g)
½ bunch shungiku (Garland Chrysanthemum) or mizuna greens (about 115 g)
1 Negi (leeks) (about 110 g) 
1 package enoki mushrooms or shimeji mushroom as you like (about 200 g)
4 shiitake mushrooms (about 65 g)
2 inches carrot (about 65 g)
1 package medium firm tofu (about 396 g)
450 g thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye), or pork (113-140 g per person)
1 package udon noodles (about 250 g) or cooked rice (Typically, hot pot meal ends with cooking udon noodles or porridge.)

You can also add any other vegetables as you like.


(You can purchase at the store, or make one on your own. Please check for the recipe.)

Ponzu Sauce 
Sesame Sauce 
Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice) - optional
Grated Daikon Radish – optional
Chopped Green Onion – optional

Preparing Broth

1. Fill a donabe (or any large pot) two-thirds full with water. Add kombu (dried kelp) and soak in water for at least 30 minutes. **You can lightly wipe the kelp before putting it into the water. The white powders on the surface are umami extract, so please do not over rinse.

While preparing the broth, let’s prepare the dipping sauce and all the other ingredients!

Preparing Dipping Sauce and Condiments

Grated Daikon Radish
Use grater or food processor and make the grated daikon radish. (5 cm cut of daikon)

Chopped Green Onion
Chop the green onion into about 2-3 mm (1 green onion)

Ponzu Sauce Recipe:  (2-3 people)
*Soy Sauce <5 tablespoon>  
*Vinegar <4 tablespoon>
*Mirin <3 tablespoon>
*Lemon juice < 6 to 9 drops >
1. Mix all the *ingredients together

Sesame Sauce Recipe: (2-3 people)
Ground Sesame Seeds (white) – 2 tablespoon
Mirin – 2 tablespoon
Sugar – 1 tablespoon 
Soy Sauce – 1 tablespoon
Mayonnaise – 1 tablespoon
Vinegar – 1 teaspoon
Miso paste – 1/2 teaspoon
Sesame oil – 1/2 teaspoon 

1. Wisk Miso paste and Mirin well together until the miso paste becomes smooth.
2. Add all the other ingredients and mix. Then microwave for 1 minute. 
3. Wait until it gets cool.   

Preparing Ingredients

1. Cut napa cabbages into about 5 cm pieces, and then cut each piece into half or one-third. (Cut the thick white part into smaller pieces and leaves in bigger pieces.)
2. Cut the shungiku, mizuna green or any other green vegetables into 5 cm pieces.
3. Cut the white part of negi (leeks) diagonally into 1.5 cm thick pieces.
4. Rinse enoki and shimeji mushrooms. Discard the bottom of both mushrooms and separate into smaller chunks.
5. Cut the stem of shiitake mushrooms. You can cut the surface of shiitake mushroom with x-shaped cuts to make shiitake mushroom easier to absorb broth.
6. Cut the carrot into ¼ inch rounds. 
7. Cut the tofu into 2 - 3 cm thick square pieces. 
8. Prepare udon noodles according to the instructions on the package, such as put frozen udon in a boiling water and reheat for 1 minute or microwave for 2 minutes. Transfer to iced water, and drain well. 
9. Arrange all the ingredients on a serving platter. 

How to Cook Shabu Shabu

1. Set a portable gas burner and put the donabe (pot) with broth on the stove. 
2. Slowly simmer the broth over low heat. Take out the kombu (Kelp) right before water starts to boil.
3. Add the tofu, the tough part of napa cabbage and shungiku or mizuna green, negi leek, carrots, and some mushrooms. Cover to cook for about 10 minutes. * You don’t have to put all the ingredients at once. You will add more ingredients and cook repeatedly as you eat.

What is Shabu-shabu? It’s a Simple, Social and Sumptuous Feast

Shabu-shabu is a perfect option for a delicious and uniquely Japanese meal with a fun, social element to it, easy to make and even easier to eat. Try making it at home for a group dinner, or check out Savor Japan's shabu-shabu restaurant listings, the very best guide to Japanese hotpot restaurants and beyond.
Finally, we will introduce 5 restaurants in Tokyo where you can enjoy fantastic shabu-shabu. Since you've just learned about how to eat shabu-shabu, this is the perfect opportunity to try it out!

1. Kyoto Hyoki Ginza Main branch (Higashi-ginza)

1. Kyoto Hyoki Ginza Main branch (Higashi-ginza)
How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven
This Japanese restaurant prizes its devotion to Japanese hospitality as well as its cuisine made with the fine-tuned skills of the chefs. Here, you can enjoy your meal along with attentive service in a comfortable and purely Japanese atmosphere. The recommended menu items are the [Hyoki Specialty Pork Dashi Shabu Kaiseki] (4,500 - 14,000 JPY) and [Hyoki Specialty Beef Dashi Shabu Kaiseki] (6,000 - 15,000 JPY). Dashi is an indispensable part of Japanese cuisine. By cooking the meat and vegetables by swishing them in this shop's specialty dashi, you can truly appreciate the taste of the ingredients as well as the high quality of the dashi itself.

Kyoto Hyoki Ginza Main branch

Open: [Weekdays] Lunch 11:30 am - 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:00 pm) [Weekdays, Saturday] Dinner 5:30 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:00 pm)
Closed: Sunday, National Holidays
Average price: [Dinner] 10,000 JPY / [Lunch] 2,000 JPY
Access: 8 minutes walk from JR Shimbashi Station. Go east along Showa-dori Street (Tokyo Road No.316), turn right at Ginza Higashi Nanachome Intersection, then 2 blocks away
Address: 1F/2F, Ginza East Bldg., 7-16-14, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo  (Map)
More Details

2. Sukiyaki Kappo Yoshizawa (Ginza)

2. Sukiyaki Kappo Yoshizawa (Ginza)
How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven
At this restaurant, you can enjoy shabu-shabu and sukiyaki made with the high quality wagyu you would expect from a wholesaler. All the seats are located in private rooms, and staff members will prepare your food in the most delicious way possible, so you don't have to worry about cooking it yourself. The [Shabu-Shabu (A la carte)] (6,000 JPY (plus tax)) is served with ponzu and a special sesame seed sauce made with an old recipe that has remained unchanged since the shop's inception. The meat is handled by an expert from when it is stocked until it is sold, and is aged to preserve it in the utmost quality. You will be moved to tears by the delicious taste of the meat when eating it as shabu-shabu.

Sukiyaki Kappo Yoshizawa

Open: Normal hours: 11:00-22:00, last order at 21:00 / Lunch: 11:00-15:00
Closed: None
Average price: [Dinner] 14,000 JPY / [Lunch] 4,000 JPY
Access: Three minutes' walk from exit A12/13 of Ginza Station, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. Two minutes' walk from exit A8 of Higashi-ginza Station, Toei Asakusa Line.
Address: 3-9-19 Ginza , Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Map)
More Details

3. YUKYU-NO-KURA   Koji & Shabu-Shabu Cuisine Ginza Rokuchome Namiki-dori Main branch (Ginza)

3. YUKYU-NO-KURA   Koji & Shabu-Shabu Cuisine Ginza Rokuchome Namiki-dori Main branch (Ginza)
How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven
This restaurant specializes in cuisine using koji (rice mold), a product mostly used in sake production that is also known for its beautifying effects. They use branded wagyu as well as koji-fed branded pork, and offer a choice of 3 types of dashi for the hot pot, including one made from sake that has been simmered to cook off the alcohol. The recommended choice is the [Sake Shabu-Shabu Course with Salt and Koji Sangen Pork (w/ 2-hour all-you-can-drink)] (6,500 JPY). Dipping cuts of pork loin and pork belly as well as the vegetables into the dashi made with plenty of alcohol culminates in a smooth and delicious flavor experience. It's quite the bargain when you consider it includes unlimited drinks!

YUKYU-NO-KURA   Koji & Shabu-Shabu Cuisine Ginza Rokuchome Namiki-dori Main branch

Open: [Tuesday - Sunday] Tea Time: 11:30 am - 5:00 pm (L.O. 4:30 pm / Lunch L.O. 3:00 pm)
[Tuesday - Friday, Day before National Holidays] Dinner 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm (food L.O. 10:00 pm / drink L.O. 10:30 pm)
[Saturday, Sunday] Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (Food L.O. 9:00 pm / Drink L.O. 9:30 pm) 
Closed: Monday
Average price: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY
Access: 5 minutes walk from exits B5/B6 of Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
Address: 2F, DAME GINZA, 6-7-18 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

4. Rabu Higashi Ginza (Higashi-ginza)

4. Rabu Higashi Ginza (Higashi-ginza)
How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven
You can enjoy brand-name kurobuta pork as well as seasonal seafood and vegetables at this Japanese restaurant. They are also noted for stocking over 70 types of shochu to choose from, including limited edition products and rare varieties. Inside, you can find a luxurious main floor as well as Japanese-style private rooms, so those who appreciate a good atmosphere are recommended to make a reservation. One popular menu item is the [Kurobuta Shabu Course] (3,980 JPY (plus tax)). You will become an instant fan of the delicious taste of the shabu-shabu consisting of pork and green onions dipped in a sweet soy sauce-based sauce. You will also be impressed by the high quality a la carte items and the soba eaten at the end of the meal in this filling course.

Rabu Higashi Ginza

Open: [Weekdays, Saturday, Sunday, National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:30 pm)
[Weekdays] Dinner 5:00 pm - 11:30 pm (L.O. 10:30 pm)
[Saturday, Sunday, National Holidays] Dinner 4:00 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:00 pm)
Closed: None
Average price: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 1,000 JPY
Access: 1 minute walk from [Higashi Ginza Station] on Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. Immediate from exit No.5
Address: 1F, Ginza Shochiku Bldg., 1-13-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

5. Hirata Bokujo Coredo Nihombashi branch

5. Hirata Bokujo Coredo Nihombashi branch
How to eat Shabu-shabu: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot Heaven
This shabu-shabu and tonkatsu (pork cutlet) restaurant is known for using its very own brand of pork. They are devoted to the quality of their ingredients, and everything is carefully selected and additive-free, including the seasonings. While the modern Japanese-style restaurant contains private rooms, the most recommended spot to dine is at the counter where you can appreciate the view. The signature item to order is the [Hiraboku Sangen Pork Shabu-shabu Course] (4,500 JPY (plus tax)). In addition to shabu-shabu, the course includes an appetizer, fried item, udon (thick noodles), and dessert. The broth used for the shabu-shabu is on the lighter side, so it is the perfect complement to the other foods included in the course.

Hirata Bokujo Coredo Nihombashi branch

Open: [Weekdays] Lunch 11:00 am - 3:00 pm / Dinner 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm
[Saturday, Sunday, National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - 3:00 pm / Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm *December 31: open only during lunch time / January 2-3: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm (L.O. 8:00 pm) 
Closed: Irregular
Average price: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 1,500 JPY
Access: 1 minute walk from exit B12 of [Nihombashi Station] on Ginza Line
Address: 4F, Coredo Nihombashi, 1-4-1 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo (Map)
More Details

Eating high quality meat as shabu shabu really lets you appreciate the luxurious taste of the meat. By all means, please enjoy some shabu-shabu while in Japan!
Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.
Publish-date: Aug 09 2017 Update-date: Jun 05 2020

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