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Groovy Osaka: Shabu-Shabu on Your own Terms

A more precise translation could be "swish-swish"

By 3 min read 3

Cold, damp winters are the perfect time for hot soup. In Japan, there are many forms of nabe that you can make cheaply and easily, like blogger Emma Crabtree wrote about. There’s also another traditional Japanese nabe-based dish to keep you warm, called shabu-shabu.

Shabu-shabu is named after the Japanese onomatopoeic word for taking thinly sliced meat and swishing it around in boiling water or broth. In other words, a more precise translation could be “swish-swish”. After swishing the meat around and cooking it, you dip the meat in a sauce and eat it.

As with nabe, shabu-shabu starts off with vegetables boiling in water or broth. However, just like nabe, it can vary in ingredients and preparation. While the most popular meat variations include beef or pork, the meat could be just about any sort of meat. There are restaurants that serve crab, duck, and other types of shabu-shabu. Likewise, the vegetables, liquid, and dipping sauces can all depend on the region, restaurant, or personal preference.

Most of the variations of shabu-shabu use one big communal nabe pot. Everyone in the family swishes their meat in the same nabe. They share the vegetables and whatever else is in the nabe. At the end of the meal, they use the meat infused broth for udon. Being a family meal, shabu-shabu typically comes in large quantities. Restaurants typically use a large nabe, which can sometimes be daunting for a lone traveler or the one person of a group who wants to try it. If you have dietary restrictions, it can also be difficult to share a large dish that contains ingredients you can’t have.


There is a restaurant in Osaka that caters to singles. At Shabu-tei, each person gets their own personal nabe. With the all-you-can-eat option, you can eat your fill of vegetables, beef, and pork in whatever quantities you desire for about 4,000 yen. You have a choice of sesame or ponzu sauce, though their sesame sauce is their specialty. There is a 1 hour and 40 minute time limit, but each of us were able to eat our fill of 3-4 plates of meat and several helpings of vegetables before even getting close to that time limit.

Let me stress that the entire plate of meat is yours, and you don’t have to share. Each person can’t have more than one plate of meat at a time, so if you would prefer to try a mix of beef and pork, it’s easier to have a friend order one and you order the other and split the two plates evenly. Otherwise, you have to wait until you finish the one you have.

Serving times seemed reasonable, but not as fast as you’d expect for a restaurant serving you raw meat to cook yourself. There didn’t seem to be a lot of staff on hand, so that could have just been a fluke on the day we went. Either way, factor this wait time into the time limit and make your selections promptly and decisively. Even with our inexperience, indecisiveness, and the staff issues, we still ate far too much within our allotted time.

After eating all that food, we then tried to eat the udon. It was actually quite difficult to finish, even for the people of our group who seemingly have bottomless stomachs. The set comes to a close with ice cream, and everyone walked away quite happy. There are also individual sets and courses aside from the all-you-can-eat option if that sounds like too much. Shabu-tei is a great option if you want to try this home style traditional meal on your own or on your own terms with a group.

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  • David Joiny says:

    I’m such a big fan of shabu shabu and Jpanese food in general.Wonderful to see an article so positive and informative! Udon kicks ass too.

    • Quincy Fox says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Thanks for reading!

      • David Joiny says:

        Keep it coming! The positivity and excitement for Japan is refreshing for even jaded veterans such as myself..

        Discovering an obsure, little known culinary gem can still brighten my month.

        It’s always the out of the way, little places with a grandma cooking to seasoned satisfied customers that delight me the most.



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