Healthy Shabu-Shabu – and a movie – with Brother

9 04 2009

That's me – in my one and only Superman shirt! – enjoying my "free" Healthy Shabu-Shabu dinner!


IN JEST, I would always say, “How come a place that makes you cook your own dinner charges so much?!”  Hahaha!


Again, I would say that just in jest, especially since I am well-aware that shabu-shabu is a culinary practice steeped in tradition from the hinterlands of Japan and Korea, especially in the wintertime.  And while lately, a television commercial fosters the importance of family meal time, shabu-shabu has done and has been doing the same for hundreds of years.


But whenever I go have shabu-shabu, I would always prefer to have my own pot (whether with family or friends).  Which, conveniently, is how shabu-shabu places have set up their tables.  You get your own pot, you ask for your own set.


Shabu-shabu is nothing new to me.  I’ve loved it for quite a while.  I even had a phase in 2008, when I had to eat shabu-shabu for every single day, for five whole months!  Imagine that.  It came to a point when the wait staff already knew me and the time I would be coming in, that I was always assured a table would be waiting for me – not the other way around!  I was so addicted to shabu-shabu that even when my 87-year old grandmother was confined in the hospital, I (alone or with my brothers and a niece or a nephew) would sneak out to HEALTHY SHABU-SHABU at Alabang Town Center just so I could get my fix.


My addiction was so severe that Batman would understand when I would drag him to a shabu-shabu dinner either at the Alabang branch or at The Podium.  I guess there was even one time when even after we had eaten somewhere else (at The Podium), Batman still allowed me to indulge in a quick shabu-shabu fix.  Gosh!  As a consolation, I shared with him some of my food.  After all, I’m a good cook.  Hahaha!


But what I’m writing about now is one recent special shabu-shabu dinner – the belated celebration of Brother’s birthday.  And whenever I’m with Brother, not only do I get free rein in what to order, I don’t have to pay too.  Hahaha!


The soy-based sauce. To its left is the Korean sate sauce. I didn't need the chili (the server was new)... just the chopped scallions!


I guess the best thing about shabu-shabu is that it’s like having a blank canvass that you can color or flavor the way you want to.  At the center of the spread is the clear broth that you shall bring to a rolling boil (when it’s your first time at a shabu-shabu place, the wait staff will be glad to show you how to operate the burners).  Usually, the broth is made from chicken bones.  So free from any seasoning, you shall find the broth to be very clean-tasting.  In the way of condiments, you shall be given a small bowl of the soy-based sauce, the Korean sate sauce, fresh egg, minced fresh garlic, chopped scallions and sliced red labuyo chili.  The lover of hot and spicy food that I am, I’m surprised myself that when it comes to shabu-shabu, I veer away from even the slightest hint of chili!  All I use from this very generous selection is the soy-based sauce which I mix the Korean sate and chopped scallions into.  But the hardcore shabu-shabu fanatics put together everything – including the yolk of a fresh egg!


The standard shabu-shabu platter that comes with every order.



Notice that the server (she was new) didn't take out the glass noodles. I'm not crazy about noodles in my shabu-shabu.



The "fat" beef!



A serving of fresh, drool-worthy oysters! My mouth is watering just staring at this...


For this dinner, I asked for the fat beef set (thin slices of “fatty” beef, the more marbling the better!).  The slices of beef are served separately from the requisite shabu-shabu platter that contains a squid ball, a beef ball, tofu, taro root, a shiitake mushroom cap, a carrot slice, a tomato wedge, a corn slice, baby bok choy or taiwan pechay, baguio pechay, a crabstick, fish cake, thick egg noodles, and glass noodles (sotanghon).  Usually, I would ask for the noodles to be replaced by cups of rice (one for each noodle type).  For extra things on the side, I would always ask for a serving each of tofu, crabsticks, and fresh oysters!


Once I bring the broth to a rolling boil, I throw in the corn, shiitake mushroom, carrot, fish cake, squid ball, and beef ball.  Everything else would be dunk (for seconds only!) just when I would munch on them.  I NEVER put everything in the pot.  No, that’s not me.  The oysters, I nestle on the slotted spoon – one at a time – and dunk in for about 10 seconds only.  The leafy vegetables, I literally just dip in the boiling broth.  Then, I dip the food in my sauce and eat them with the rice.


Having shabu-shabu is a leisurely dinner thing.  It allows you to take your time and savor each dish component.  But mostly, it allows you to reconnect with somebody else.  After all, sharing a good conversation and a good laugh are key to an overall satisfying dinner experience.


That's the very generous Brother... Thanks for taking time out from DOTA and treating me to this sumptuous dinner! Hahaha!


But oh, there was one time I breezed through my shabu-shabu dinner in 15 minutes flat.  That was when Batman, Friendship and I had to make it to the screening of “27 Dresses.”  Good thing that on this dinner with Brother, we had a good lead time before Liam Neeson’s “Taken” started!





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