London Style Sea Bream Shabu Shabu

At the end of last year, we visited London’s Sazai Cooking School to hold a cooking workshop in conjunction with the Tokyo-based Japanese tableware store Hanada.

Thanks to the popularity of sushi there, it’s now possible to get hold of fish that taste great raw. In winter you can find fatty fish for a season of even further flavour. But it would be a waste to limit the bounty of the oceans to just sushi.
At the workshop, we introduced a way to enjoy cooked fish in Donabe pot: as seafood shabu-shabu.


Fresh, locally-caught sea bream was sliced thinly into the shabu-shabu style and parboiled in a rich dashi broth for a few seconds. After the addition of a little yuzu ponzu sauce, giving the fish a citrusy fragrance, it becomes impossible to stop eating.


You can transform this dish into a hearty main course by adding tofu and seasonal vegetables like Chinese pak choi and shiitake mushrooms. Other vegetables that are great in nabe hot pots are soup vegetables like carrots, spinach, and a variety of mushrooms. This healthy dish doesn’t call for oil, so it is also low calorie and packed with vitamins.

Here is the recipe, courtesy of chef Akemi Yokoyama.

Sea Bream Shabu Shabu

Ingredients : Serve 2 to 3 people

  • 1 fresh sea bream, scaled, deboned and filleted (with or without the skin)
  • 300g silken tofu, cut into quarter, then into 8, equal size or until tofu becomes 4-5cm box size.
  • 200g pak choi, wash thoroughly with water, cut lengthways into 2-4 chunks.
  • 5-6 shiitake mushrooms, clean the surface with mushroom brush or kitchen towel, then cut into half.
  • 1 leek, wash thoroughly with water, cut both ends off, then slice diagonally into 2cm thickness.

Dashi stock

  • 1800ml water
  • 30g konbu
  • 50g dried bonito flakes

Ponzu dipping sauce

  • 100ml ponzu sauce
  • 100g fresh mouli (mooli / daikon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Japanese seven spices ‘Shichimi’
  • 1/2 spring onion

Steps to make dashi stock

  1. Add water and kombu in a big enough pot, leave to rest at least 30 minutes, or overnight if possible for the best result.
  2. In order to get the umami rich clear stock, cook kombu over low heat (ideally at 60℃) for 60 minutes.
  3. After 60 minutes, remove kombu, then bring the temperature to 85℃ over medium heat. Turn off the heat, then add bonito flakes.
    Do not stir but wait for 30 seconds until the bonito flakes start to settle.

  4. Drain the stock in a sieve, preferably with a single layer of fine cotton cloth spread over the sieve. It will help to make the stock clearer.
  5. Alternatively, you can use the commercial dashi products, such as dashi powder, or dashi concentrate liquid. Please follow the instructions on the box.

Steps to prepare sea bream for shab shabu


  1. Wash the fish in clean water. If you use the sea bream with skin, make sure to remove scales thoroughly. Skin holds the fish intact when cooked, but it is up to you to decide whether you keep the skin. Dry the fish well with kitchen towels.
  2. Slice the sea bream (sogi-giri). This is an instruction for right-handers. If you are left-handed, take the reverse position.

    • Fish position on the cutting board – place one fillet (quarter of the whole fish) horizontally on the clean cutting board in front of you. The head-side on right, the tail-side on left and the skin-side down.
    • Your hand position – Hold the knife on the right hand, tilt at about 30 degrees, hold the fish gently with 4 left fingers closed together and stretched straight, lift the thumb away from the fish. The fingers should be placed in the same angle of the knife so the knife only slices the fish.
    • Slicing the fish – From left (tail-side) to right (head-side), slice the fish diagonally into 1cm thickness in one stroke, by pulling the knife toward you. Maintain 30 degrees all the time. When you feel the knife almost touching the cutting board, tilt the knife back vertically to finish cutting. This will ensure a clean edge when cutting the skin. Repeat until you finish slicing the fillet. Slice all fillets and place them flat slightly overwrapped on a large plate.

Steps to make ponzu dipping sauce

  1. Finely chop spring onion.
  2. For mouli, peel the skin off, then grate using the grater.
  3. To make chili mouli, add seven spices to grated mouli and mix well.
  4. In each individual dipping bowl, pour the ponzu sauce equally. Add teaspoon full of chili mouli and spring onion to your taste.

Steps to cook sea bream shabu shabu

  1. Shabu shabu is best cooked on the table with guests. Place donabe or a large shallow pot on a tabletop cooker. Pour the dashi stock into it, and cook half of tofu, leek, shiitake and pak choi over medium heat. Keep the lid on to speed up the cooking.
  2. When the dashi starts boiling, turn down the heat until the bubble disappears. When the vegetables are cooked, it is ready to start cooking the sea bream.
  3. Each guest dips the sea bream one by one to cook for only 2 to 5 seconds.
  4. Dip them into the ponzu mix to enjoy. Top up the vegetables and tofu to cook as you go along.

The collection of donabe earthware and tableware by Haruya Abe.

Foliage Painted Large Donabe Pot

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