Taiwanese hot pot will always be my first love, but it's also been my gateway hot pot. After getting very comfortable eating hot pot in Taiwan, I wanted to explore. I have tried and loved Sichuan hot pot, Thai hot pot, Korean hot pot, and Japanese hot pot. When it came to making hot pot at home, however, it was always Taiwanese-style hot pot made with a canned-chicken-broth base and plenty of sacha dipping sauce.
Until now. I saw the lovely photos from Just One Cookbook's shabu shabu recipe and realized we hadn't yet made Japanese hot pot at home. Then on one of my walks around town, I noticed that there was a "Japanese-imported hot pot ingredients" store. The stars were aligning: It was time to make shabu-shabu at home.
The biggest difference between Japanese hot pot, or shabu shabu, and Chinese hot pot seems to be the intensity of the flavor. A Chinese hot pot meal can be very salty and is often spicy or sour (my mouth is watering just thinking about it!), whereas Japanese hot pot uses a more delicately flavored broth and dipping sauces. After our very filling shabu-shabu meal, I concluded that Japanese hot pot was much more of a comfort food, a wonderful meal for Sunday evening, whereas Chinese hot pot is more of a Friday night, party-time kind of dinner.
I suspect Japanese hot pot is also healthier, but I haven't done the math. It's certainly easy to make hot pot unhealthy (and delicious) by adding lots of fatty meat to the broth and using salty or sugary ingredients for the dipping sauce.
Additionally, Japanese hot pot is usually cooked and served in a clay pot called a donabe, while Chinese hot pot is usually made in a conventional metal pot. You can also serve all the ingredients already cooked and artfully arranged, like a hearty soup, but then you miss all the fun of tabletop cooking!
I followed Just One Cookbook's example and made a simple kombu seaweed broth for a base. I definitely did not make my own dipping sauces, however. We got a very delicious sesame dipping sauce and ponzu from the aforementioned hot pot store.
Just want to say how awesome it is living in a place where there's a "hot pot store".
Our haul from the store also included lots of interesting processed shapes (kamaboko) made of meat, fish, eggs, tofu, etc. Mr. Tabletop Cook was against buying this fish-paste stuff printed with Santa Clauses and Christmas trees on account of it not being Christmas anymore, but I prevailed. I had never seen anything so...ridiculous? ...adorable? as a hot-pot ingredient before!
Anyway, I am not going to give you a hot pot recipe with numbers and all, but I will give you some suggestions for ingredients and dipping sauces and some tips for serving it up, which is all you really need. Just remember that if you want to stay within the parameters of shabu-shabu and avoid going into "Chinese hot pot" territory, keep it light, fresh, and stay avoid adding hot sauce.
This list is not exhaustive or exclusive! Hot pot is really whatever you put in it. Check out our Chinese hot pot recipes for more ideas about meats and vegetables that taste excellent cooked in broth and dipped in sauce! Bok choy, button mushrooms, corn-on-the-cob, Korean rice cakes...don't let anyone else tell you what doesn't go in your hot pot! Don't let anybody dull your sparkle!
For the broth
To make and serve
Some of my favorite online stores might have just what you need for your next tabletop meal!
Asian Food Grocer has a great selection of essential ingredients and many hard-to-find items.
Cilantro Cook Shop has a great selection of quality raclette and fondue sets.
For The Gourmet has an amazing selection of cheeses and chocolates.
Sephra specializes in chocolate, caramel and fruit fondues... and fountains.