Places such as Shabu-Zen is wonderous, filled with food so delicious I never want to leave.
Enter Shabu-Zen, at 16 Tyler Street, Boston, MA. A place I found wandering around Chinatown in Boston looking for warm food on my lunch break on a cold winter day. This is a place you wouldn't recognize from any advertisement, or would even know existed unless someone pointed it out to you. A favorite among the locals in the area, this is definitely a hidden treasure.
Classified as a "hot pot" restaurant, also known as shabu-shabu style, you enter and seated either at a table, or in the center which is definitely the place I want to sit. All of the action is taking place in the center. All the locals eat, all the food is delivered, and all the staff are there constantly to ask you if you need anything else.
In the table, or in front of you, is an individual electric hot plate in which a pot is set. You are given a simple menu containing a list of meats you would like to use. They offer a variety of meats, including; chicken, beef, lamb, and pork.
Now, me being me, I like things spicy. I ordered the Kim Chee soup stock as spicy as they had it. I decided to get some beef and lamb to go with some noodles. The stock was served with a side of Kim Chee, which is a spicy flavored pickled cabbage. The veggies included were cabbage, carrots, corn still on the cob, tofu skins, watercress, and mushrooms. As for flavor enhancers, they had a side of soy sauce, and a small amount of chopped garlic, hot bean paste, chopped chives, and some sort of dried spicy pepper.
After dumping all the garlic, dried pepper, chives, and some of the red bean paste into the stock, I let it come to a boil before I added some of the veggies and noodles. See, this is what I love best about places like this. They serve you food, and you do what you want with it. You don't need to add things to the soup unless you want to, and you don't need to worry about whats already in there cause your adding it.
Now, what I like to do is add the noodles last, so they don't get soggy that quick. Also, your supposed to add the meat last. And I don't like to add it all at the same time.. then, to me, it will cook too much. The slices of meat are very thin, like cold cuts, and rolled up. I like my meats with a little blood and not cooked too long, so I only add enough to fill the bowl I am eating out of at that moment. Let the meats cook in there for as long as you want, then serve yourself.
Your given a bowl and you add whatever you want out of the pot into your bowl, add a little broth, then consume. The flavor is beyond words I can put together into a sentence. Ask the people around me. Many were wondering if there was something wrong with me.. or they wandered into the wrong place, due to my moans of "oh yeah" and "mmmmm" were very loud and constant.
As if I was not having enough pleasure, we ordered some dumplings. The unfortunate part was they were frozen when given, but the idea is to let them cook in your stew. Oh man, were they good. The outside was doughy and chewy. The inside had the perfect balance of flavor, spice, and sweet. I was in heaven.
Coming to the sad, unfortunate end of my meal, I felt depressed. I knew I would have to leave soon. But alas! Desert! Nothing can end a meal like what I had, especially with the ability to cool you down after eating such a hot and spicy broth. Green tea ice cream surrounded by raw green tea dough, made into a ball. A nice, sweet, cool, calming dish.
I believe Anthony Bourdain once said, one of the many reasons why Asian cuisine was his favorite is because, like everything else, they have been doing it for that much longer. While other countries and traditions may have existed for hundreds of years, China, and the surrounding Asian countries have been cooking for thousands of years.
Nothing can be explained more about their rich culture and heritage than in the food they prepare and eat.
Please, please visit this place. You will not be disappointed!