The flavor doesn't really come from cooking but from the sauce. However, the resulting broth, after all that cooking, is immensely delicious.
Shabushabu and hot pot are as distinctive as Chinese xiaolongbao is from Japanese gyoza. Both are distinctly different, and you have to appreciate the similarities and differences, which make them great in their own right.
Most commonly, meat (beef, pork or chicken) is used for shabu-shabu, but recently there have also been increasing variations with vegetables or fish. The chain of hot pot restaurants in the interior of Mongolia is my favorite place in Orange County (Irvine), but when it comes to shabu shabu, I just do it myself at home. Along with sukiyaki, shabu-shabu is a common dish in many parts of Japan, but also in local Japanese neighborhoods (colloquially called Little Tokyos) in countries such as the United States and Canada. Shabu shabu reflects Japanese food culture because it focuses on the natural flavors of the ingredients (so the high-end ingredients make everything much better).
If someone tries to tell you that there is no wrong or right way to eat shabu shabu, proceed to eat the hamburger bun first and the meat at the end, while you dip the lettuce, tomato and pickles in ketchup or mustard sauce with a knife and fork. The cooking method of dipping the ingredients to cook it lightly resembles Japanese shabu-shabu, but it is quite natural, since both are believed to come from the same origin. Shabu-shabu uses a basic dashi konbu as a broth, very thinly sliced protein, usually beef or pork, or sometimes even seafood (yellow tail, puffer fish, octopus), it is dipped in the boiling broth for a short time until it is very lightly cooked and eaten with ponzu sauce (soy and citrus) or sesame sauce (common with pork). Shabu-shabu was introduced to Japan in the 20th century with the opening of the Suehiro restaurant in Osaka, where the name was invented.
So, if you don't have the ability to travel to Japan and you live in Southern California, you can try authentic shabu shabu at any of the following places (Kagaya is my favorite place). Lazy media outlets for opportunistic companies seeking to capitalize on partnering or marketing their hot pot as “Japanese shabu shabu shabu” are quite common, which is why there is so much confusion. Shabu-shabu is a lot like the original Chinese version compared to other Japanese hot pot dishes (nabemono), such as sukiyaki. If you want to try Japanese shabu shabu, when you Google “shabu shabu” in Los Angeles, places with sushi and ramen aren't your real Japanese shabu shabu spots.