【Japanese Food】 Differences Between Three Major Japanese Hot Pots

Let’s see, how may Japanese Hot Pots’ names do you recognize? Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, and Nabe (or, Yosenabe)…. these are the top three widely known names outside of Japan.

They are all “Hot” in terms of temperature and “Hot” never represents spiciness in Japanese Hot Pots. Japanese do make spicy Hot Pot using Korean Gimchi (Kimchi), but it’s totally different from authentic Korean Gimchi Hot Pots.

Most of the Asian countries have their own style of “Hot Pot” dishes (and they ARE popular all over the world!), I assume that foodies like you would love to call those names of dishes in the native languages, wouldn’t you?

The picture shows Nabe or, Yosenabe.


Nabe means simply a large pot. Yosenabe means to do Nabe with gathered ingredients. Just playing with words. Ingredients can be pretty much anything you want to eat; vegetable, meat, tofu, seafood, bring all on. Place everything in a pot with a piece of dried sea kelp (as a mild broth base), sea salt, and cold water, then heat it.

When cooked, have all items with dipping sauce. Most popular sauce is called Ponzu, the citrus – vinegar – soy sauce – dried bonito broth mix. If you are allergic to gluten, make sure to skip the dipping sauce. Japanese soy sauce contains wheat flour unless it’s a Tamari soy sauce.

You can use any vegetables, yet in order to bring a very Japanese Nabe flavor, Nappa cabbages, Enoki mushrooms (or Shitake mushrooms, Oyster mushrooms), Asian radish, and Asian chives would do the job. The Nabe in the picture has chicken tenderloin hidden underneath, but no meat is absolutely fine to make it vegan friendly. When using meat, it’s common to choose one kind. On the other hand, we do mixture of seafood like prawns, clams, and white meat fish.

Shabu Shabu

Shabu Shabu is very similar to Nabe in terms of ingredients and flavor. The difference is the method. Boil water with sea kelp and sea salt first, then you place vegetables. After enjoying eating vegetables, go on to the meat. You swish thinly sliced meat (commonly beef but there are options of pork, chicken, and crabs) and have it with dipping sauce. The key of Shabu Shabu is to maintain inside the pot clean and avoid ingredients to be overcooked.


Now, Sukiyaki is a completely different animal, both method and flavor. Sukiyaki has to be beef, thinly sliced but not thin as Shabu Shabu beef. First stir fry beef, tofu, and vegetables with beef fat in a cast iron pot, then pour sweet broth (broth – soy sauce – sugar/mirin – sake) over to cook. Here are the biggest differences. The dipping sauce is plain whisked raw egg. This is the reason why you can’t find the authentic Sukiyaki restaurants in North America and Europe… the restriction of raw eggs.

Published by kiwami

Sustainable Lifestyle Specialist /Interior Designer (U.S. certified) /Author of Picture Books