I have long had a sort of obsession with Japanese culture and traditions; when I was a child, I would come home from school and switch on the TV and every afternoon on Channel 4, Sumo wrestling would be on and from the first moment I saw these giant men with funny hair-dos, I was completely and utterly hooked. So what on earth do Sumo wrestlers have to do with Shabu-Shabu? Well despite their gargantuan statures, Sumo wrestlers diets are incredibly important and during my visit to Japan, I learned that the traditional meal-of-choice (post-match) for a Sumo wrestler is none other than a humble bowl of Shabu-Shabu.
Don't think for a second that there is anything remotely unhealthy or fattening about Shabu-Shabu... On the contrary, Shabu-Shabu is a nourishing bowl of meat and vegetable deliciousness designed to hydrate, energise and satisfy. In fact it is one of the healthiest meals one can indulge in and to say that I'm ecstatic to have found a proper Shabu-Shabu joint just 5 minutes from my house, is a complete and utter understatement!
The concept is simple and pretty similar to that of Vietnamese Pho or Fondue Chinoise... but in my humble opinion, it knocks the socks off them both. A cauldron of clear dashi broth bubbles away on a flame (or electric hob) in front of you. You are served a selection of udon noodles, tofu and vegetables as well as your chosen meat. In Japan the traditional meat is usually pork and you can choose between a regular dashi broth or a spicy dashi broth. Here at 'Genji' in Whole Foods Market Kensington, you have a choice of beef, chicken, pork, seafood and vegetable (something for everyone) and the plain dashi broth is served along with condiments of Shichimi pepper seasoning, ponzu sauce and chilli oil. How your dish is flavoured and what goes into it, is entirely up to you! Oh how the control freak in me loves this style of dining.
My new pal Tommy (who works at Genji and is pictured above) proved to be a stimulating dining companion as I chomped gratefully on my Shabu-Shabu, creating a different flavour combination each time. I remenisced about Tokyo where myself and some friends went to see the prestigious Sumo wrestlers in action and afterwards I was taken to a restaurant known for it's fantastic Shabu-Shabu. It was absolutely wonderful and seemed to provide me with every single vitamin and mineral that my flu-ridden body was clearly lacking at the time. So to have Shabu-Shabu on my doorstep, makes me feel very fortunate indeed and I highly recommend you try it because it is the perfect remedy to the cold weather and leaves your tummy feeling utterly satisfied and very loved.