Shabu-shabu,’ is Japanese for ‘swish-swish,’ the sound of a piece of meat moving through boiling broth on the tip of pointy chopsticks. Hot-pot dishes are popular all over Japan, but for me, the Hokkaido-style is special due to the delicious addition of butter! This dish is also a great vehicle for roast Hokkaido pumpkin…

It’s only ‘a kind-of’ because I’ve deducted the hot-pot element here in favour of a more straightforward soup presentation. (To avoid the faff of having to set up a hot plate at the table). If you wish to reintroduce this, feel free, but for the lazier, getting the soup into the table hot-hot and then adding the beef to the bowl means that you still get to ‘shabu-shabu,’ but saves the need for table-top fire!


(Serves 2)

Dashi Broth:

  • 1 piece of konbu, 6 x 8cm
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 3 cups dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi

Shabu Shabu:

  • 200g firm pumpkin – cut in 3cm dice
  • A few tablespoons of sunflower oil or canola oil
  • 1 banana shallot – thinly sliced
  • A handful of curly kale leaves – stems removed, leaves roughly torn
  • 200g beef fillet
  • 150ml sake
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • A few shiitake mushrooms – finely sliced
  • Some enoki mushrooms – stems cut in half, lower halves discarded.
  • 8cm piece of daikon (Japanese radish) – cut into long matchsticks
  • 1 long red chilli – deseeded and cut into long matchsticks (to garnish)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 generous knobs of butter (to serve)

This dish can be made in various stages, ahead of time, and assembled very quickly at the end.

Dried konbu - sea kelp

Dried konbu - sea kelp

Katsuobushi - dried bonito flakes

Katsuobushi - dried bonito flakes

Start by making the dashi or base broth:

Using a pair of scissors, cut a couple of small incisions in your piece of konbu. Then, fill a medium saucepan with water and add the piece of konbu. If you have time to leave this soak for a few hours, do so, as this will make for a more intense stock, otherwise, place it directly over medium heat.

Carefully watch the water as it nears boiling point, and just before it does so, as small bubbles are beginning to form around the rim of the water, remove the konbu from the water, and take the saucepan off the heat. (If you allow the water to boil with the konbu in it, the resulting stock will become bitter in taste, and have a slightly slimy texture).

Discard the konbu, or, if you wish, keep it to boil a second time to create another, lighter type of stock called nisban dashi. Both types of dashi store up to a week in the fridge, and up to a month in the freezer.

Next, add the bonito flakes to the saucepan, and place back over a medium heat. This time, let the broth boil, but once boiling, continue to cook for only 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, remove the pan from the heat, and allow the bonitio flakes to settle to the bottom. (Approximately 10 minutes).

Strain the stock using a sieve. The bonito flakes can be kept for niban dashi, or discarded.

Now, pour the strained dashi broth into a sealable container, and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

To prepare the shabu shabu ingredients:

Begin by heating the oven to 200°C.

Remove the skin of the pumpkin using a sharp knife, then cut into large dice. Sprinkle these with a little sunflower oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes on one side, turn the pumpkin pieces over and continue to roast on the other side of a further 15 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a high-sided, heavy-based pan or casserole and fry the shallots over medium heat until soft but not coloured.

Next, add the torn kale to the shallots and cook for a further minute.

Take the dashi broth from the fridge and add a splash of this – 50-60ml – to the pan containing the kale and shallots, then cover and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Once cooked, remove the shallots and kale to a bowl and put aside. Then, wipe any remaining liquid from the pan, and then return to a high heat.

While the pan is heating up, quickly prepare the beef fillet by rubbing with a little oil, along with some salt and pepper.

Sear the fillet very quickly on all sides, turning it using a set of metal tongs. A few seconds on each side is enough as the aim isn’t to cook the meat, only to give it an all-over browning.

Remove the fillet to a chopping board when done, but return the pan to the heat in order to deglaze.

The idea here is to mop up all the flavour left in the pan by the beef, so allow the pan to heat up for a few seconds longer, then pour in the sake, and scrape the base of the pan vigorously with a wooden spoon. Allow to bubble and cook down for around a minute or two, allowing the alcohol to evaporate from the sake, then pour into a small jug and put aside until ready to use.

Return to the beef fillet – if you are preparing the dish ahead of time, allow it to cool to room temperature, then wrap very tightly in cling film, and store in the fridge along with the sake deglaze, roast pumpkin, and shallot and kale.

When ready to assemble and serve:

Begin by slicing the fillet steak as finely as possible, then position slices between a folded layer of cling film and, using a meat hammer, flatten until paper-thin. Arrange on a serving plate and keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Next, heat the dashi in a large saucepan. To this also add the sake de-glaze and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce.

Once boiled, turn the heat to a simmer and add both types of mushrooms, the roast pumpkin, as well as the shallots and kale.

Organise your serving bowls now, ready to go, and check that your garnishes – the daikon and chilli, as well the butter, are also prepared and on the table.

Then, turn the heat under the pot back up, bringing the soup once again to a boil.

Quickly divide the boiling soup into the waiting bowls. Place these on the table, alongside the sliced beef, and garnishes, allowing everyone to add their own beef, and swish this through the broth with chopsticks, ‘shabu-shabu,’ to cook.