Theatre and diner interaction play a huge part in Japanese dining, the artistry of the tea ceremony, the DIY grilling over a hibachi when you eat yakiniku, the almost exclusively Northern dish of wanko soba where attendants deftly fling mouthfuls of noodles into your bowl as you eat, and our favourite- shabu shabu. Named after the onomatopoeic sound of people doing laundry, flapping sheets and clothing around in a pot of bubbling water, a shabu shabu meal sees diners sat around a steaming pot of stock, individually dipping in wafer thin slices of raw meat and vegetables until cooked, then quickly anointing them with a sour ponzu dipping sauce and greedily gobbling them down before repeating the act with the next morsel. It is one of the most entertaining, communal and theatrical of Japanese meals, but- because of the huge amounts of steam generated by the hotpot (or more correctly, hotpots, since you’re likely to be eating shabu shabu in a restaurant specialising in the dish)- only really suited to winter dining.
What happens then in the warmer, more humid months if people crave the flavours of shabu shabu but not the hour or two huddled around a pot of steaming pork and beef broth which would be so welcome later in the year? Reishabu is the answer- a selection of Japanese leaves topped with the poached pork that would be the feature of the hotpot, along with daikon, grapes, and a citrussy dipping sauce to refresh and revitalise you on even the hottest of days. You get all the flavours of shabu shabu, just in a lighter, cooler, balanced salad, and if you don’t dress the leaves with the ponzu until you’re ready to eat it, this makes a fantastic picnic lunch.
- 400g thinly sliced pork shoulder or belly
- 200g mixed salad leaves (we used leaves that you usually find in standard shabu shabu, such as mizuna, chrysanthemum greens, komatsuna and baby pak choi as well as butterhead lettuce- but you can use a mix of whatever salad leaves you like)
- 200g cucumber
- 100g daikon or radish
- 100g seedless black grapes
- 1 spring onion
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- a couple of chive flowers if available
- 2 litres dashi stock
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 300ml soy sauce
- 300ml yuzu juice (you could substitute sour orange juice, lemon or lime juice)
- Put the dashi and sake into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes in ready to chill the pork in after cooking, then- using cooking chopsticks or tongs- take single slices of the thinly sliced meat and place them into the boiling stock. Cook each of them for twenty or thirty seconds, until the pork just starts to turn an opaque pale pink, plunging the slice into the iced water as soon as it is cooked. When you have cooked all of the pork, leave it all to cool in the water for ten minutes.
- Whilst the pork is cooling, slice the cucumber into wide ribbons using a mandoline or vegetable peeler discarding the seeds, cut the radish into fine julienne strips and the grapes into thin discs, and chop the spring onion into long diagonal shreds.
- Divide the salad leaves between four serving bowls, then place equal portions of the remaining salad vegetables on top. Arrange a tangle of the poached pork on top of the leaves, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and chive flowers. Mix the soy sauce and yuzu juice together to make the ponzu dressing, then drizzle a tablespoon of ponzu over each serving of salad, pouring the remainder into four individual small dishes for each diner to use as a dipping sauce.
Serves 4 people.