Shabu-Shabu for Newbies

You know shabu-shabu—the Japanese dish where all the people at the table cook meats and veggies in a shared pot of boiling broth, sort of the same idea as meat fondue or Mongolian hot pot. On Chowhound, cgarner asks, What are the rules? Is there a correct order for cooking the items? What about proper etiquette?

The only hard-and-fast rule is this, ipsedixit says: Don't dip chopsticks that have touched your mouth into the communal bowl. Sometimes you can break even that rule, depending on the familiarity of the company. But to be safe, camelicious explains, use two sets of chopsticks: One for dipping in the communal bowl for cooking, the other for eating. Usually, each person has a small wire fishing basket to rescue items that have reached proper doneness.

Pretty much every family has their own approach, though it's mostly common sense: Ingredients that take longer to cook (whole mushrooms, say) should go in the pot before delicate items like razor-thin slices of raw meat. You sip the flavorful broth at the end, mamachef says—though pikawicca likes to dump a bunch of rice in at the end, letting it absorb the broth so it ends up almost like risotto. And mamachef likes to stir in a couple of beaten eggs to further enrich it.

Dipping sauces vary widely—camelicious likes soy sauce with sliced chiles and fried garlic, also thinned-down oyster or hoisin sauce. RealMenJulienne likes Sha Cha Jiang, also called Taiwanese barbecue sauce, a thick, grainy paste that appeals to anchovy-lovers. Also sesame paste thinned with hot water and a dash of soy sauce.

A final tip on tofu and shabu-shabu: Freeze, thaw, and squeeze the tofu to remove excess moisture before serving. "This changes the texture to become much more sponge-like, which soaks up more broth and stands up better to long cooking," RealMenJulienne says.

Discuss: Shabu-shabu/hot pot… teach me!

Photo by Flickr member Gustty under Creative Commons