Sunday, September 26, 2004

Shyabu-shyabu Redux

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader feels that the good ole Big Hominid's co-worker is displaying a little ethnic pride concerning the dish called, in Korean, Shyabu-Shyabu. Upon hearing the name, the Big Ho' mentioned that the name sounded Japanese. The Big Ho's co-worker stated the dish was Korean.

Well, your Maximum Leader started reading the Big Hominid's description of the dish and thought immediately, "Ah! Shabu-shabu!" Shabu-shabu is, to the best of your Maximum Leader's knowledge, a traditional Japanese dish. The name "Shabu-Shabu" coming from the swishing noise made by your chopsticks while cooking the beef.

Of course, the true historical antecedents of this dish are rather hard to pin down. Most "traditional" dishes of one asian nation have close counterparts in most other Asian nations. So, this dish may be rightfully claimed by either Korea or Japan. Insofar as most non-asian nations are concerned, this dish is typically identified with Japan.

A quick search of the Food Network's web page resulted in finding an Emeril Lagasse variation on this rather common recipe. A quick Google search renders this as the first match.

Your Maximum Leader has prepared Shabu-Shabu himself. Here is his take on it:

Shabu-Shabu (Maximum Leader style)
For 3 women, 2 men, or 1 Big Hominid.

1.5 lbs of beef (sliced paper-thin, with little marbling)
4 large leaves of Chinese cabbage
2 Leeks
8-10 Shiitake mushrooms
1 small package (7-8oz) of Watercress
3.5 oz of rice noodles (the thin transparent type)
Sesame sauce
3-4 cups of distilled water or clear chicken/beef stock

FYI the Sesame Sauce for dipping consists of: sesame paste mixed with sugar, miso, saké, rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. A few (2-3) tablespoons of each mixed together to taste. Your Maximum Leader likes to add a little more rice vinegar (4-6 tbs) to get the taste he likes.

Step 1) Cut your cabbage and leeks into small thin strips of roughly equal length. (Your Maximum Leader generally goes about 2 inches long by .25 inches wide by .5 inches thick.)

Step 2) Cut watercress into 2 inch lengths.

Step 3) Remove stems from Shiitake and clean the caps.

Step 4) Soak rice noodles in cold water until they become translucent and soft.

Step 5) Arrange the veggies and beef on plates. Place dipping sauce in bowls. Your Maximum Leader generally arranges all of the veggies and sauces on plates on a per person dining basis, but puts the beef on a separate plate or plates. (To keep contamination down.) But your Maximum Leader has seen all the elements arranged together on single plates.

Step 6) Bring your water/broth/stock to boil over table-top burner. If you have a nice earthenware pot, use it. Otherwise a wide mouthed fondue pot will work. If you are doing this in the comfort of your own home without guests to impress use a regular thin metal saucepan.

Step 7) At the table, individually take slices of the meat with chopsticks and swish them back and forth in the boiling liquid a few times. As soon as the meat turns colour, remove it, dip into sauce, and eat/plate it. Remove any scum that may appear on the liquid periodically. After the meat is cooked, add the veggies in small batches and bring to boil. Add rice noodles. Then dish out the soup into bowls and eat.

Aside: As for the water/broth/stock choice. If you have access to really high quality beef (like Kobe, Mishima, or a particularly fine and tender USDA Prime Angus) your Maximum Leader will recommend distilled water. The water is without chemicals which, if they were present, would disturb the flavour of the meat. If you are using a regular beef, you may want to go with beef/chicken stock/broth. This will add a little flavour to the meat and soup as they cook. Be careful that the stock/broth is not too salty.

So there you have it. Shabu-shabu, Maximum Leader style.

Carry on.


BigHo's ADDENDUM: Just to clarify: my companion didn't say the dish was Korean; in fact, she didn't know where it came from. But "shyabu-shyabu" doesn't sound like a typically Korean phrase, which is why I asked her about the dish's provenance. It's also interesting to note that the Korean version I ate didn't include any dipping, and the noodles weren't transparent: they were closer to the noodles found in Korean-style Chinese food like jjajang-myeon, but thinner and yummier.


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