'Shabu House' puts Korean spin on 'hot pot'

Traditionally, it's a Chinese or Japanese form of communal cooking, but he found a brand new hot pot restaurant in the northwest suburbs with a more Korean accent.

Hot pot cooking is typically done around one communal bowl. Diners dip their veggies, meats or seafood into hot broth, then have a few choices for dipping sauces. It is essentially Asian fondue. But a new option in Niles takes a more individual approach to the concept of 'shabu shabu,' and it is introducing diners to some tasty new options.

Every meal becomes a participatory event at the brand new Shabu House, located in a Niles strip mall.

"Well, shabu shabu is, it's a form of cooking that was created during the time of Ghengis Khan in the thirteenth century," said Shabu House's Daniel Park.

Every diner at Shabu House has his or her own personal cooking pot. Diners begin with a choice of either chicken broth, or one made from kelp, a type of seaweed. Then, they hit a button to turn on the heat, and they're off, dipping at will.

"One would be beef, if you want just beef, or there is also seafood, choices you can get, or a combination of both. If you're vegetarian, we also have the vegetarian, which comes with a lot of mushrooms," Park said.

Vegetables certainly help. They flavor the broth for a treat that comes later in the meal.

"The zucchini and the Napa cabbages and carrots and all those, different types of mushrooms, and they also make it very delicious," said Park.

Cooking the thinly-slice ribeye takes just seconds, about the time it takes to say "shabu shabu." Then, diners get to dip it into a choice of three dipping sauces.

"We have the spicy sauce, the sesame or peanut sauce and also the apple ponzu sauce," said Park.

Homemade dumplings are also available to nibble on. After customers finish their beef or seafood cooking, they bring out some white rice, finely-chopped carrot and zucchini, and then crack an egg into the well-seasoned broth. The result is something like a rice porridge.

"We're making a kind of risotto, I guess. We just put some carrots and zucchini and some rice, and we mix it with egg in the soup that you already have on there, the broth, which is, of course, full of the flavoring that you already put in," Park said.

Koreans love sweet potatoes. So, it was no surprise to see some caramelized nuggets for dessert. Another option is the coconut custard-stuffed Kabocha squash. Park says the entire dining experience will come as a pleasant surprise to first-timers.

"That the whole idea, it's fun, it's good, and it's unique, it's different; having your own set of soup to cook into," Park said.

You don't even have to know how to use chopsticks, because you also get long, narrow forks to help you dip and cook, which is great for younger diners.

Incidentally, the strip mall that Shabu House is located in has some outstanding ethnic dining options, including a pretty good -looking Indian restaurant.

Shabu House

8257 W. Golf Rd., Niles


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