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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Stick a Fork In It: The Tao of Hot Pot

Meat is murder and murder is delicous.

Meat is murder and murder is delicous.

How glad are you that Spring is on the horizon? I’m friggin’ psyched. The one downfall of this seasonal limbo is that everywhere you turn there’s someone coughing all over you. You got to protect your health right now like it’s the Pentagon. Probably the best place to start is your diet, but when it comes to eating out it can be pretty tough eating healthy too. Tough, but not impossible. Lucky, for us there’s soup and nothing beats Pupu Hot Pot to get the body feeling good.

Shabu Zen on Tyler Street in Chinatown specializes in Japanese Hot Pot. If you’re not familiar with Pupu Hot Pot, it’s a style of eating in which you get your own cauldron of hot broth with several ingredients of your choosing (that’s the Pupu) and you make the soup yourself. It’s very good and very nutritious. Shabu Zen is a Japanese style cafeteria; there’s a long square bar with numerous chairs around it and each seat has an individual cauldron. The atmosphere of Shabu Zen has the type of sleek sophistication one finds in many Japanese restaurants. Clean lines and simple decor lend itself to a relaxed environment. Even when Shabu Zen is packed, the noise level stays at a low hum. It’s obvious people are there to have a calm dining experience. In many ways, Shabu Zen is quite sensual. The soup cauldrons make the room very steamy, the music and clientele are quiet, which compliments and fuses with cuisine, all making for a very harmonious experience.

The menu at Shabu Zen offers a variety of beef cuts (including Kobe), other assorted terrestrial meats, surf and turf, seafood, and vegetarian options. You also have the choice of dining à la carte, picking and choosing which meats, veggies, or seafood you want in your dish. However, nothing is served cooked. Rather, you take the thinly sliced meats or raw vegetables and place them into your pot. The cooking time should be about seven seconds or more, depending on the thickness of the item. Every plate comes with a complimentary (and enormous) side of vegetables, which include watercress, mushrooms, corn on the cob, tomato, and cabbage. You also get several pieces of tofu, tofu skin, vermicelli noodles, and a fish ball. At every seat there is an assortment of condiments: fish paste, scallions, chopped chili peppers, chopped garlic, and a special house soy sauce. You can throw them into your hot pot and make your own unique broth, or you can mix them together as a dipping sauce. You also have the option of rice, vermicelli, or udon noodles with your meal.

For my meal I had the sirloin with extra watercress. It was a generous plate of meat, about ten slices. The watercress and other vegetable plate was heaping with freshness. The fun thing about eating Pupu Hot Pot is that every serving you make is different. What I do is put a couple of pieces of meat into the pot with garlic, a little fish paste, peppers, soy sauce, and a bunch of veggies. I take those out and before I eat them, I begin to make a new combination in the pot. Sometimes I’ll have a little broth with the rice, or eat the vegetables, or just sip on the broth alone. You can literally sit at the counter and eat for an hour without tiring of the food. Especially, when you’re drinking hot sake-your insides warm up, the steam and the peppers clear up your head, you sweat out some toxins, and by the time you’re finished you feel like a million bucks (or 100 million yen). You also get all the green tea you can drink. When you’re done with your main course, every meal comes with a complimentary dessert of black bean soup. To us skittish Westerners, sweet beans aren’t exactly what we’re used to, but trust me its very good. It’s a small cup of whole black beans and barley in a sweetened bean sauce. The flavor is very clean and simple, a tasty way to end any meal.

When one goes to Shabu Zen, the first thing that might be noticed is that their are a lot of locals that eat there which says a lot, especially in Chinatown, part of town with a vast dining landscape. It’s extremely clean and the wait staff are accommodating without being intrusive. It’s moderately priced, not unreasonable at all. There is absolutely nothing bad I can say about it whatsoever. Shabu Zen rocks and everybody should go there. Your health and your taste buds will thank you for it.

Shabu Zen is located at 16 Tyler St. in China Town. Its opened Sun-Wed 11:30 am-11 pm, Thurs-Sat 11:30 am-12am. For questions, call Shabu Zen at (617) 202-8828 or visit their website at www.shabuzen.com.

If you want Vanessa to come to your restaurant or if you have comments, e-mail her at [email protected]