Tabletop/side Cooking

Who does it?

As in ON or beside the table. Raclette? Hotpot? Fondue? Hibachi? Mongolian Grill? Stone slab? Plancha on a rechaud? Zambaglione? Coleman on the picnic table?

I’m asking mostly about dining customs. I’ve been in palaces and palatial homes where extreme measures were taken to assure actual cooking was never anywhere near where the food was served and eaten. Yet many of my most memorable meals were cooked inches from my plate, with all the attendant smells, sounds, spatters and conviviality that go with.

A restaurant “chef’s table” and open design come close, but they’re still different, IMO.


Korean BBQ, too. One of my favorite things…

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How do you do it?

We make hot pot often in the winter, for which we specifically purchased a hot plate.

It’s fun & delicious.

Yes, for certain things. Hot pot has been a staple in my family for decades. Started with the rickety old plugged in rice cooker (that took a long time to come to boil), to the propane stand alone cook top, to now the fancy electric standalone pots.

I have become a fan of the Japanese table top grilling for yakiniku. The few places I’ve been to it’s on a small table top grill with binchotan charcoal and they are relatively smaller portions (vs the Korean table grill set up). The plus for this is you don’t come out smelling like grilled meats. In Japan they will also do this for certain seafoods (grilled fresh oysters, crab, whatever you want) and it’s delicious. I like Korean BBQ too, but good strong ventilation a must. I don’t love smelling like it when I get home.

So I guess I’m open to trying all the other types I haven’t experienced yet. I will pass on the raclette though as I’ve never passed a stall, restaurant or some place that offers raclette or pasta in a cheese wheel that doesn’t smell like feet.

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Thanks. The idea of a quite small tabletop grill appeals to me for the social aspects: patience, sharing, grazing, drinking, conversation, involvement, etc.

Where does shabushabu fit in with (any of?) what you do? The paper-thin beefsteak that Costco sells as shabushabu grills/caramelizes very fast, but doesn’t the term really mean something like swish-swish (i.e., hotpot)?

Mm, I thought you meant in general, not at home.

Always a restaurant for KBBQ, but we now almost exclusively do hotpot at home with an induction burner. Eating at eg Hai di lao is a nice treat from time to time when we’re interested in a wider range of items, but I find that the quality of produce and meat at hot pot restaurants is rarely any better (and sometimes worse) than what I can find at the grocery store.

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Plus you can usually purchase exactly what you want in your hot pot. Our local Asian grocers have all the things we love (including a huge variety of broth bases, but we generally stick to the same, Sichuan one): napa cabbage, baby bok choy, shiitake, a variety of frozen, thin-sliced meats like pork, pork belly, lamb, etc. etc., fresh noodles.

I really liked the table top grill / hibachi. Most of the portable grill set ups in the states are either electric, infrared heat, or something that doesn’t quite have the same taste. They were like this but a bit bigger and usually round or oblong.


Technically, we follow the Chinese hot pot tradition, which is close enough to shabu. I’ve heard the same thing about shabu meaning swish so I’ll go with you on that! Growing up, our broth base was simple - usually a chicken stock. You couldn’t get pre-sliced meats in those days, so she cut and prepped all meat and seafood by hand. Today, we favor the more complex and flavorful soup bases like what you get at restaurants. It’s become our Christmas dinner tradition and I like the ease of it, especially after Thanksgiving. Everyone can buy and prep what they want, and we eat and talk throughout the meal. We have two pots of broth going at once - a spicy and a non-spicy, but all the options fill our tables and counters. Veggies, tofu, mushrooms, seafood (squid, fish, clams, fish balls, fish paste), meats (pork, beef, lamb, beef tongue), and noodles. We also sometimes take a break and then come back to cooking and eating after a 20 minute rest.


The one time I had shabu-shabu tabletop in a Japanese restaurant, everything was cooked in a casserole-ish shaped vessel of broth. No grilling.