Shabu-shabu was introduced in Japan in the 20th century with the opening of a Shabu-shabu restaurant "Suehiro" in Osaka. Its origins are traced back to the Chinese hot pot known as "shuan yang rou". Shabu-shabu is most similar to the original Chinese version when compared to other Japanese dishes (nabemono) such as sukiyaki. The name of Shabu-shabu was named when Suehiro served it. After that, Suehiro registered the name of shabu-shabu as a trademark in 1955. The cuisine rapidly spread through Asia. Together with sukiyaki, shabu-shabu is a common dish in tourist hot-spots, especially in Tokyo, but also in local Japanese neighborhoods (colloquially called "Little Tokyos" or "Japantowns") in countries such as the United States and Canada.
The dish is traditionally made with thinly sliced beef, though modern preparations sometimes use pork, crab, chicken, duck, or lobster. Most often, tender ribeye steak is used, but less tender cuts such as top sirloin are also common. A more expensive meat, such as wagyū, may also be used for its enhanced flavor and texture. It is usually served with tofu and vegetables, including Chinese cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, nori (edible seaweed), onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and enokitake mushrooms. In some places, udon, mochi or harusame noodles may also be served.
The dish is prepared by submerging a very thin slice of meat or a piece of vegetable in a pot of boiling water or dashi (broth) made with kombu (kelp) and swishing it back and forth several times. The familiar swishing sound is where the dish gets its name. Shabu-shabu directly translates to "swish-swish". Cooked meat and vegetables are usually dipped in ponzu or "goma" (sesame seed) sauce before eating, and served with a bowl of steamed white rice. Once the meat and vegetables have been eaten, leftover broth from the pot is customarily combined with the remaining rice, and the resulting soup is usually eaten last.