Food and eating is a special part of everyday life in Korea. Each meal is an event and deciding what and where to eat is often an important discussion. When traveling, the whole day or excursion is likely to be planned around the meals, and at the very least, the meals will be one of the focal points.
So, we have been very lucky and have sampled many of the wonderful dishes of Korea. That’s why quite a few of my articles have been, and will be, about food and eating!
ShabuShabu is a popular Japanese dish in Korea, especially for special occasions. We were very lucky and had this twice on the campus of Seoul National University (SNU), as celebration dinners for the Workshop.
It’s basically a type of hot-pot dish, involving lots of vegetables (especially mushrooms and leafy greens) and very thinly-sliced meat (preferably beef) cooked in a broth, and a couple of dipping sauces. The beef needs to be paper-thin and have lots of marbling, so the best is Hanwoo (Korean beef), which also happens to be very expensive.
It’s cooked at the table in a large pot on a grill in the center, usually about one pot per 4 people. First the grill is fired up and the broth boils. Then someone at the table (or each individual diner) starts to add some of the vegetables, which arrived raw, piled up on a plate. As those cook, you can begin to get some out of the broth with your chopsticks, dip in a sauce, and enjoy. Soon, you add some of the beef slices and cook them by swirling them around in the hot broth.
When the vegetables and meat have all been cooked and eaten, noodles are added to the broth to cook. They are a wonderful and tasty end to an amazing meal. More than likely, you’ll be offered beer or soju to drink, or a mixture of the two, called Maekju.
Supposedly the Japanese name (Shabushabu) is onomatopoeic, from the sound made when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot. However, the origin of the dish is the Chinese hotpot (which commonly uses mutton). No matter…it’s a wonderful way to celebrate, and the food is really tasty and healthy.