Shabu-shabu is familiar to Western diners, though it is part of the nabemono-style of cooking. As with other nabe meals, the shabu-shabu experience is characterized by a cooking pot on the table, with customers choosing their own ingedients and cooking them on the spot. Diners dip thinly slieced meats such as beef or chicken in a savory broth. Vegetables are also part of the shabu-shabu experience.

The thin slices of food cook quickly in the hot broth, which grows more flavorful as new ingredients are cooked. Sauces such as ponzu or sesame seed sauce are used for dipping, and leftover broth is often combined with rice to make a soup to finish the meal.