OISHII / Sweet and sour Vietnamese hot pot features fragrant herbs

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Shabushabu, Vietnamese style

The Yomiuri ShimbunVietnamese shabu-shabu

In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.

Masumi Suzuki, head chef of the Vietnamese restaurant Kitchen in Tokyo’s Nishiazabu area, shares her simple recipe for gyuniku shabu-shabu (hot pot with thinly sliced beef).

Slices of beef are cooked by dipping them in a simmering pot of sweet and sour soup and served wrapped in rice paper with vegetables, herbs and fruits.

“This is a meal that most [Vietnamese] people would only eat at restaurants. It’s a dish typically reserved for special occasions,” Suzuki said.

There seem to be similarities between the way shabu-shabu is consumed in Japan and Vietnam.

Suzuki’s recipe is unique in terms of the soup, which has a refreshing sweet and sour flavor. It is made using sugar-free coconut water, lemongrass and vinegar.

Lemongrass is thinly chopped and stir-fried to bring out the flavor. Vinegar is added just before the heat is turned off.

Sugar-free coconut water is available to buy online or at Asian food grocery stores. If you can’t find any, sweetened coconut water or apple juice are possible alternatives, but you’ll have to reduce the quantity of sugar when preparing the soup.

When preparing the lemongrass for the dish, be sure to use the whitish parts. Remove the roots and score them lengthwise in cuts several centimeters long. Cut them thinly into slices of the same width, and shred finely.

In the Vietnamese style, cooked pieces of sliced beef are eaten wrapped in rice paper with vegetables and fruits. The use of fruit may be surprising to people familiar with Japanese shabu-shabu.

In Vietnam, it is common to use star fruit or green banana. Because both fruits are hard to find in Japan, Suzuki suggests using pineapple instead.

Serve with sweet and sour nuoc cham dipping sauce. The sweetness of the pineapple and fragrance of the herbs complement the beef perfectly. It’s a simple, healthy dish that is surprisingly filling.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Slices of beef are wrapped with various ingredients in rice paper.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Lemongrass can be cut in different ways for different kinds of recipes.

Versatility of lemongrass

Lemongrass can be used in many kinds of recipes.

Flavored oil can be made by stir-frying thinly chopped lemongrass until the color turns golden brown and then putting them in oil; lemongrass sticks cut into thin rounds can be used when making stir-fried dishes; and diagonally cut slices can be simmered with other ingredients when making soup or curry.

“Keep cut slices of lemongrass for longer by storing them in zip bags in a freezer,” Suzuki said.

Recipe for shabu-shabu, Vietnamese style

Ingredients (Serves 2):

160 grams beef (for shabu-shabu)

⅓ onion

5 or 6 leaves each of red-leaf lettuce and green shiso

½ cucumber


Spearmint, basil and raw coriander

8 sheets of rice paper


3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic

1 knob of ginger

⅛red onion

40 grams lemongrass (white part)

½ cup rice vinegar

3 cups sugar-free coconut water

1½ cup water

2 tsp sugar

1½ tsp salt

10 grains black pepper

Nuoc cham

2 tbsp nuoc mam or nam pla

2 tbsp water

3 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp sugar

½ tsp finely chopped garlic

⅓ red chili pepper (finely chopped)


1. First make the soup. Finely chop garlic, ginger, red onion and lemongrass. Put vegetable oil, garlic and red onion into a pan and stir-fry them on medium heat. When the aroma of the garlic increases, add the ginger and lemongrass, and continue stir-frying.

2. Add the water and coconut water. When the soup begins to boil, add vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper grains. When the sugar and salt have dissolved, turn off the heat. Put the soup into a pan suitable for shabu-shabu and place the pan on a tabletop gas burner.

3. Cut red-leaf lettuce in half lengthwise. Cut cucumber and pineapple into thin strips. Place the ingredients on a plate together with green shiso leaves, spearmint, basil and raw coriander.

4. Put the beef on a separate plate, and cover with sliced onion. Place sheets of softened rice paper on a separate plate. Mix the ingredients for nuoc cham in a bowl.

5. Heat the soup in the pan on the tabletop gas burner, and dip slices of beef in it. When cooked, wrap the slices of beef with pieces of vegetables, herbs and fruits in rice paper and dip in nuoc cham sauce to enjoy.

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