Eating out when you're being careful about fat and sodium is a real challenge. Even restaurants with vegetable-based cuisines (Chinese, Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern, etc.) tend to use a lot of oil in the kitchen. And I don't want to even talk about how much I miss soy sauce.
So, Shabu Shabu. It means "swish swish" in Japanese, and its a dish that has lately caught on in Boston. Four shabu shabu restaurants have opened here within the past six months. They're fun, affordable, and as long as you're easy on the soy sauce and heavily-marbled meats, healthy. The emphasis is on high quality ingredients--perfect vegetables, absolutely fresh seafood and wafer-thin meats. We've been eating our way through them.
You are seated at a table or counter with a heating element. You order a kind of broth, the protein and starch you want, and are given a large plate of vegetables and an array of tiny dishes containing condiments. You'll likely be given a dish of ponzu, a soy and orange juice blend, little dishes of garlic, scallions, chopped chili, and a sweet bean sauce. Combine them as you wish to create your dipping sauce, and I also like to put some of the garlic into the broth. Be careful with the chopped chili, it can sneak up on you. Also, if you haven't been given it--ask for goma, a fantastic sesame sauce.
You wait till your broth simmers, and then begin by putting in the vegetables with the longest cooking times. You select a piece of meat with your chopsticks, swish it into the broth, and then dress it with your condiments before eating. Continue with your meat and vegetables, saving your noodles or rice for last. When you've eaten all your protein, dump the noodles into the pot, and then scoop some noodles, any remaining vegetables, and broth into your bowl so you can finish with a nicely-flavored soup.
Most people order thin slices of beef of some kind, which really works well and is delicious prepared this way. The regular cuts are good, but I've been told the Kobe is even better. Also nice is chicken or lamb. In keeping with my food plan, last night I ordered seafood. I got a platter with cod, squid, salmon, scallops, and a mysterious "fish ball." I traded my squid to Larry for some chicken (he got a mixed platter of beef and chicken) after my first taste convinced me I prefer my calamari grilled or fried. The salmon, scallops and cod were great, once I figured out the timing. The fish ball was like a salty gefilte fish, so that also went to Larry. Last night's vegetable platter had a huge pile of watercress, chinese cabbage, tomato, carrots, enoki mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, and tofu. I managed to use just a teaspoon of ponzu, so the sodium count shouldn't have been too bad.
It takes a long time to eat shabu shabu, and so its more filling than the raw ingredients would suggest. The place we went to last night in Brighton was mostly filled by Asian faces, and we ran into some friends we haven't seen in many years. A fun evening, and an actually healthy dinner out!