Japan is an island country in East Asia. It is located in the northwest Pacific Ocean and is bounded on the west by the Sea of Japan, while it extends from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea, the Philippine Sea and Taiwan in the south. Hot pot cooking became even more popular among the Chinese emperors of the Qing Dynasty from 1644 to 1912, where it was served with big celebrations and regularly every day. During this period, Chinese merchants brought this style of cuisine abroad to countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Shabu Shabu in Japan The Japanese style of hot pot arrived late in Japan. It has been said that a doctor from Tottori Prefecture (northwest of Kyoto) was sent to Beijing as an army surgeon during World War II. There he tried the shuan yan rou, the Mongolian lamb hot pot, which was normally served as a winter dish. Most commonly, meat (beef, pork or chicken) is used for shabu-shabu, but recently there have also been increasing variations with vegetables or fish.
Shabu-shabu was introduced to Japan in the 20th century with the opening of the Suehiro restaurant in Osaka, where the name was invented. Soon after, in 1955, shabu shabu arrived in Tokyo, where it later spread as a beloved dish throughout the country. When they were struggling to name the dish, the owner heard a waitress wash and rinse the hand towels, and he really liked the sound; therefore, he came up with the idea that shabu shabu is a “rinse” of beef. 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.
In 1955, a Japanese restaurant with shabu shabu was opened, and that popular dish spread from the Kansai district to Kanto. In 1952, Suehiro, a restaurant in Osaka (which still exists today), officially changed the name from mizudaki to shabu shabu, since this was the house specialty. Unlike other types of hot pots, where ingredients are cooked together before serving, shabu-shabu ingredients are served raw and cooked next to the table during the meal, similar to fondue. The “godfather of shabu shabu” is the former owner of “Eirakucho Suehiro Honten”, a restaurant in Osaka.
Shabu-shabu is a lot like the original Chinese version compared to other Japanese hot pot dishes (nabemono), such as sukiyaki.