How to make cold shabu-shabu (rei-shabu) Part 2.

New crop onions are special treats. They are perfectly crunchy, sweeter and flavorful, but a lot less sharp and tear-inducing. Farmers’ market is probably the best place to find them, since the vegetables might have been harvested only hours ago. Freshness really matters to fully enjoy new crop onions.

As new crop onions taste great raw, one of the best ways to enjoy them is to slice them very thinly and mix with other ingredients. And one of the best partners for thinly sliced onions is thinly sliced pork! So we need to revisit cold shabu shabu (rei-shabu). 

What is cold shabu shabu (rei-shabu)?

If you’ve ever had shabu shabu, you would know what it means. It’s a pot dish that uses thinly sliced meat, usually beef or pork. You let pieces of meat dip in boiling water for maybe about 10 seconds (shabu shabu is an imaginary sound effect to let a piece of meat swim for 10 seconds in hot water!). That’s pretty much it. Once the meat is cooked (the key is not to overcook them), dip them in sauce and eat, along with a lot of vegetables boiled in the same pot, as meat provides great broth. 

When you make it cold, shabu shabu can look more like salad. Instead of shabu shabu-ing in a pot as you eat, you cook pieces of meat beforehand, and toss them on your salad of choice. 

You can use a lot of sliced onions along with other vegetable cut similarly. 

This time, I used sliced onions, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, paprika, apricots and fava beans. I also added some leftover shrimps, diced.  

Cold shabu shabu (rei-shabu) recipe

There is nothing really to cook here. You cut vegetables and other ingredients, boil meat, mix together and that’s it. Really really easy. But because of the simplicity, you need to be careful when you choose  ingredients. 

The main ingredient of shabu-shabu is very thinly sliced meat. You might have to make a trip to Asian specialty grocery stores, at which you may find “shabu shabu meat” or other kinds, like Mongolian BBQ meat. Try to choose high quality product, because lower quality ones won’t taste great when simply boiled. You don’t need a lot of meat; try lesser quantity but higher quality. You don’t have to eat as much meat as you may think you need. One pound of meat should be more than enough for a family of four. 

Quality for vegetables also matter. Hopefully you make a trip to farmers’ market to get new crop onions, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and so forth, because your taste buds will feel the difference. Fresh, flavorful, crunchy, more nutritious. 

You can also add other proteins such as tofu, seafood or nuts. Certain fruits are also good additions. 

Last but not least, dressing matters. You can use your choice of dressing. If you want to go authentic Japanese, you can try ponzu or shabu shabu sauce. They are basically soy sauce-based dressing with citrus (such as lemon or yuzu), vinegar with bonito broth.


Shabu shaubu meat (about 1/4 lbs per person):

Pork or beef.  For cold shabu shabu, I recommend pork because it tastes lighter.  If you have Japanese grocery store nearby, you should be able to find meat packaged as “shabu shabu pork.”  Meat for Mongolian BBQ is also very thinly sliced.


“Must” is onions. Choose good quality, tasty onions that are not too bitter. Farmers market may help you.  Other than onions, you are welcome to experiment any vegetables that are crunchy and can be thinly sliced.

  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Daikon raddish
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Kabu raddish
  • Apples
  • Lettuce
  • Garlic
  • Sprouts (no slice, obviously…)
  • Tomatoes (no slice, obviously…)

Use a food processor and slice everything!

You can let your sliced onions sit in cold water for 10 minutes if you want to reduce the bitterness.


If you shop at a Japanese or Asian market, buy “ponzu” or “rei-shabu dressing.”  You can also use regular salad dressings, but don’t choose something too thick and heavy such as ranch. I’d recommend the ones that use vinegar, citrus or sesame. Because “ponzu” uses a lot of citrus, you may want to add lemon or lime if you are using regular dressing.

You can also use “ponzu” at home, if you want to avoid additives etc. I will post the recipe next time.

Once you are done boiling meat and slicing vegetables, mix them together and serve.