Lately the boyfriend and I have been frequenting Japanese shabu shabu restaurants when we venture out for dinner. I love going to these places because in addition to being tasty and healthy, they make for a unique dining experience. If you’ve never been before, you basically sit around a table that has a pot of boiling broth in the middle. You order your choice of thinly-sliced meats and vegetables and then cook them in the broth. It’s a little more work than your average restaurant experience, but really fun!
Although it’s not nearly as popular as the Japanese shabu shabu places in the States, there is actually a Thai version of this meal. It’s called Thai sukiyaki (or suki for short) and is basically Japanese shabu shabu “Thai-ified”. Instead of a soy- or miso-based broth, the soup base is flavored with a Thai suki sauce made from chilis, garlic, lime, and cilantro.
This sauce is the key differentiator and what makes Thai sukiyaki so delicious. It’s got all of the flavors of Thai cooking – spicy, sour, salty, and sweet – plus some seasame oil to round it out and give it that extra umami.
Once the sauce is made, it’s really just a matter of assembling the other ingredients. You can use whatever vegetables you like – I’ve found I really like the combination of bok choy, napa cabbage, mushrooms, and kabocha squash. Thinly-sliced beef or pork is common, but you can also use tofu, seafood, or whatever else suits your fancy. An egg is generally also beaten and thrown into the broth as well as bean thread noodles (woonsen).
Thai sukiyaki is generally eaten in a big group of people with a communal pot of broth in the middle just like shabu shabu. You throw your egg, noodles, meat, and vegetables into the boiling broth to cook and then each person scoops out what they would like into their own bowl. Everyone has their own little dish of Thai sukiyaki sauce to flavor their broth. It can also be used as a dipping sauce for an even richer flavor with each bite. Lime slices, sugar, and fish sauce can also be served alongside for additional personalization.
That’s really all there is to it. All told, it’s not much more work than going out for shabu shabu. And the fact that it’s Thai, it’s absolutely delicious, and the boyfriend doesn’t have to pay for a dinner out makes it a total winner in our book!