Recipe: Korean Style Shabu Shabu (샤브샤브)

My roommate and I have long talked about getting a portable gas grill to hold some impromptu barbecue parties with friends on our veranda or rooftop. We finally got our hands on a portable electric grill a few months ago but that was just in time for winter...

So there it sat, tucked away in a corner on a shelf for some time until it dawned on me that we could be using it for tabletop stews and other dishes indoors in the winter too. So for the grill's inaugural "christening", I threw a Korean style shabu shabu party for a few of us which turned out a big success.

Shabu shabu is a Japanese dish but it's been adapted in Korea too where shabu shabu chains and restaurants are commonly found throughout these parts. For those who don't know, shabu shabu is basically a hot pot dish in which veggies, meat, and other goodies are boiled or dunked in a communal pot of broth and dipped in sauces to be eaten. Not only is it a healthy dish but with the number of choices offered, it can be a crowd pleasing dish that can cater to different tastes.

It's also very simple and minimal. The broth is the only real "cooking" part. The rest of the ingredients just need to be washed and prepped. Afterwards it's every person for his or her self in what they want to eat and to what degree they want it "done". The ponzu sauce and peanut sauce is common in both Japanese and Korean style shabu shabu but Koreans also like to have the sweet Thai chili sauce to dip too.

Koreans like to add knife cut noodles at the end to the flavorful broth and then even add rice and diced veggies to make porridge. While that was our original goal when we sat down, none of us had any room to eat any more after the noodles.

What ingredients you choose to dip/boil in the shabu shabu is up to you... leafy greens, cut up veggies, other kinds of meat even.

In any case, this is especially a nice dish to gather friends or family around for a meal in the winter if you have a portable grill or stove so take advantage in the last days of winter!

Korean Style Shabu Shabu (샤브샤브)
Makes about 3-4 servings

You'll need:

For the broth:
- 6 liters of Water
- 6 or so pieces of Dried Kelp (Dashima or 다시마)
- 1/2 an Onion, quartered
- 1 Green Onion, roughly chopped into thirds
- 8 dried Anchovies (Optional)
- 1/4 large Radish or Daikon, roughly chopped (Optional)
- 1 cup of Jang Guk Soy Sauce or Katsuo/Bonito Soy Sauce (This is a special soy sauce that's often used to help flavor noodle dishes like udon and soba. It contains things like katsuobushi [dried and smoked skipjack tuna... you see shavings of these on top of Japanese dishes like Okonomiyaki], kelp and other natural flavorings.) A sample bottle of a Korean brand looks like this:

For the ponzu sauce: 
- 2 1/2 tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp of the Broth (just reserve 1.5 tbsp from the broth you made above)
- 1 tsp of Mirin (Soju also works in a pinch or you can just omit) 
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1/2 tbsp of Vinegar
- 1 tsp of grated Radish or Daikon (Optional)

For the Peanut Sauce:
- 2 tbsp of creamy Peanut Butter (Tahini may work here too but you'll have to taste and adjust)
- 1 tbsp of Soy Sauce
- 1 tbsp of Broth
- 1 1/2 tbsp of Asian Mayonnaise (usually in a squeeze tube bottle and found in all Asian marts)
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice

For ingredients:
- 600 grams or about 1.5 pounds of thinly sliced Brisket or Sirloin (This is called Cha Dol Bag Ee or 차돌박이 in Korean. They are very thin slices of beef. Some Asian marts sell shabu shabu style cut meat in their meat corners)
- 1/2 block of Tofu, cut into rectangles
- 3-4 Shiitake Mushrooms
- 1 package of Enoki Mushrooms
- 1 cup of Oyster Mushrooms
- 1 Carrot, cut into coins 
- 1 small head of Napa Cabbage, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1/2 a small Kombacha Squash, cut into slices
- 4 Bok Choy heads, leaves pulled apart
- 4-5 Dumplings or Mandu (frozen is fine)
- A few Chili Peppers, sliced (Optional for those who want to add some spiciness to the broth)
- 1 clump of Knife Cut Noodles (Kalguksu or 칼국수)

1. Begin by making your broth. Add the water to a big, sturdy pot and then add all the ingredients for the broth making. Bring to a boil on high then continue boiling on medium for 15 minutes with the lid partially closed. You can get started on washing and prepping the dipping ingredients during this time.

To make the sauces, simply whisk together the ingredients for the two sauces in separate bowls, tasting and adjusting to your liking. For the peanut sauce, if you prefer a smoother, creamier sauce, you can blend it.

2. After 20 minutes, discard all the broth making ingredients and then add the cup of Katsuo/Bonito soy sauce. I purposely make the broth on the less salty side since you're going to be dipping the ingredients in sauces anyways but if you want your broth more savory, feel free to add some more of the soy sauce.

3. Arrange on plates all your dipping/boiling ingredients and set on the table.

4. Transfer your hot pot to your portable stove on the table and arrange all the dipping/boiling ingredients, including the meat and the sauces on the side. Give your guests individual plates/bowls and utensils. Keep the portable stove on medium-high and adjust throughout the meal.

When eating, I'd advise you to put in first the ingredients that need to boil a bit in the broth to cook such as the dumplings, tofu, squash slices, and some of the mushrooms.

The smaller mushrooms, bok choy, cabbage, etc, can be taken out and eaten after only a minute or so of cooking.

As for the meat slices, just take a slice of meat with your chopsticks, dip, and swirl around the broth for 10-15 seconds, or until the meat is no longer pink. Then, take out and dip in the sauce of your choice. Have a small plate on hand to skim out the foam that forms and floats on the top of the broth during your meal. This will help ensure your broth continues to be flavorful yet clean tasting.

Since it's beef, you don't need and probably don't want to cook the meat slices too long or else they'll get tough.

When you're done with the ingredients, skim out the broth one last time of any foam, fats, or impurities. Then, when the broth is boiling again, shake the excess flour out of the noodles before adding them to the broth to cook.

After about 3-5 minutes, the noodles should be cooked and ready to eat with the flavorful broth. If you still have room after that and you have some broth leftover and you're some sort of sadist who enjoys torturing your stomach, just add some cooked rice and diced veggies with just a squirt of sesame oil and mix it into the broth in a 2:1 ratio on medium heat. You may need to scoop out some of the broth in the beginning to have the correct ratio. The rice will plump up with the broth and take on a porridge consistency.