This post has been a long time in the making and let me warn you, it is not for the squeamish (or the vegetarian). There is a lot of undressed, uncooked meat ahead of you. So please, shield your eyes accordingly. But I promise, what you see and read will be worth whatever “harm” you endure as the food I am about to show you encapsulates the ultimate dining experience for low sodium eaters. The mecca of low sodium friendly restaurants.
Hands down, one of my favorite foods to eat is Shabu Shabu. If I were a betting woman, which I am, I would put money on the fact that most of you have not experienced the glories of this delicious cuisine, originally created by Ghengis Khan way back in the when. Instead, you may be more familiar with cousins of this dip and eat experience, like Mongolian Hot Pot or the more European, Fondue. While they similarly boast the same play-with-food attitude, they both depend on highly salted broths and cheeses to satisfy customers. Thus, ultimately, my heart and stomach solely belongs to Shabu Shabu.
Here’s the dish: the menu is simple, offering beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian options, made complete with a plateful of veggies and a bowl of rice. Don’t be afraid to ask for seconds or, for that matter, the large order. I never am.
But don’t misread the menu’s slim offerings as a preface to a tasteless meal. Even though the choices are few, the flavor options are endless. Each order comes complete with three dipping sauces, dried chilis, ginger, and diced scallions so you can alter your broth and a steaming bowl of rice to your liking.
Make it sweet, spicy, tangy, or all of the above. And if you are a Shabu Shabu novice, don’t be shy. The friendly staff is more than willing to dish out cooking advice. Your every “swish” is their desire.
You can also usually order off a list of “sides” if you want more meat, veggies, noodles, or fun additions like pot stickers (not for the sodium sensitive).
For someone on a restricted diet, and a low sodium one to be exact, the fact that you have full control over your meal is a huge plus. All I have to do is simply ask for hot water, as opposed to broth, to avoid the sodium from miso or seaweed (which are common ingredients). And the rest is a sodium safe meal of delicious, fresh meat and veggies. I use the freshly diced scallions and the chili oil or dried chilies (whichever is available) to confidently add flavor to my water broth and bowl of rice. Lately, owners of Shabu Shabu restaurants have even offered to make me my own “special sauce” with a combination of beer, sesame oil, non-seasoned rice wine vinegar, and some corn starch. I have found that, beyond all else, they want you to enjoy your meal. So make friends and feel free to ask for extra accoutrements that will complete your dining experience.
Shabu Shabu is a stress and sodium free adventure, filled with lots of healthy eats. It is also incredibly affordable. A very filling dinner for two will cost you a mere $30 bucks and service is always quick. If you’re ready to give it a try, two Bay Area restaurants have my Sodium Girl stamp of approval. For those in San Francisco, check out Happy Shabu Shabu, tucked away on the busy Fillmore street across from Yoshi’s Jazz Club. For those a bit more south on the Peninsula, I highly recommend Shabuway, with locations in the heart of downtown San Mateo and Mountain View. That’s right, Googlers, you’re neck of the woods.
I can guarentee that you will not be disappointed. Or hungry. So get cooking and chow on.