My first shabu-shabu experience was a few weeks ago in San Francisco and I was both baffled as to why I’d never heard of it before and devastated because I didn’t think that it existed in Seattle. Many thanks to my friend Kristin for teaching me about it and to Google for instantly assuaging my fears by finding the one and only shabu-shabu spot in Seattle… Shabu Chic!
Chances are good that you’ve never heard of shabu-shabu (9 out of 10 people I asked hadn’t), so let me tell you about it and how it works. Shabu-shabu is a Japanese dish and the name comes from the sound of the ingredients being stirred in the pot (swish swish!). I will have to listen harder and decide if I agree with that, but it’s certainly fun to say. Shabu-shabu!
You are seated in front of (or around) a hot burner that’s built right into the table, and you choose between a seaweed or spicy miso broth (go with the spicy miso) that heats up on it. Then you choose which type of thinly sliced meat that you want – beef (ribeye or expensive kobe) pork or shrimp, and how much of it – 10-15 slices/pieces. The meat is served on a plate along with another plate full of cabbage, carrots, tofu and noodles that help round out the meal. Then you get your choice of white or brown rice and two different dipping sauces – a sour ponzu and a sesame sauce that you can jazz up with green onions, garlic, chili oil and pickled radish. You can also add all of those condiments to your broth.
By the time that all of this gets set up, your broth is boiling and you start throwing all of your ingredients into the pot and get cooking! It doesn’t take very long – about 15 seconds for the beef and a bit longer for the veggies. Then you take out the ingredients and dip them in the sauces and eat along with your rice.It helps if you’re handy with chopsticks, but at Shabu Chic they give you tongs and a ladle to help get things back out.
If this sounds intimidating and you don’t have me (or Kristin!) to teach you, don’t worry! They provided this very handy little guide:
I am particularly fond of shabu-shabu because I love food that you have to work for and dining experiences that are participatory – and this is both! It’s fun, healthy and a relatively light meal that you can customize in a dozen different ways.
Shabu Chic is located on 12th and Jackson in the very back of the little plaza just west of Tamarind Tree. They are only open Friday-Sunday for both lunch and dinner. I do not recommend going with large groups, as the restaurant itself is teeny tiny and there are only about 20 seats. I also suggest sitting at the bar because otherwise you will have to share a burner with your dining companions and get a split pot of broth, but I think it’s more fun to have your own. I’m available to go anytime you are!