FEATURE

Waiting to be discovered – enjoy the Fukuoka specialties motsu nabe and mizutaki

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Though Fukuoka boasts a number of well-known gourmet treats, the quintessential are undoubtedly motsu nabe and mizutaki. They are particularly popular in the cold of winter, when we naturally want to eat something hot, especially at events like end-of-year or New Year’s parties.  Let’s take a look at what makes motsu nabe and mizutaki so special, and how the popular restaurants recommend they be eaten.

 

■Juicy, tender and popular with the ladies! Motsu nabe, the friend of the people

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The standard for “stamina” nabe (hot pot), motsu nabe’s tender fatty taste will keep you coming back for more. Beef motsu (offal), heaps of cabbage and chive are cooked together, with chili peppers and garlic also working their magic when you need energy. The fact that motsu nabe is also eaten a lot in the heat of summer is a testament to its special status.

Motsu nabe finds its origins in the early postwar period, where offal was boiled in an aluminum pot and given soy sauce flavor. In an era where food was scarce, people gradually developed the knowhow to make offal tasty and it is still loved nationwide as a food of the people. Somewhat surprisingly, it has also seen a renaissance in recent years – particularly with female diners – due to its low calorie content, vitamins and collagen. The fact that a lot of vegetables are included only sweetens the deal.

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Established in 1985 and known as a place to enjoy Hakata-style motsu nabe, we visited Motsu Nabe Show Raku to hear more about the best way to eat this dish.

First, one selects their preferred flavor of soup. Though the standard is soy sauce, since the establishment of Motsu Nabe Show Raku they have offered a traditional chicken bone stock soup with your choice of soy sauce, miso or salt. The soy sauce type, unchanged (with pride) since establishment, is a blend of Hakata’s traditional light soy sauce and dark soy sauce fermented with kombu and bonito flavors. The miso type is a full-bodied combination miso with thick and deep flavor. The salt type is lighter, allowing instead for the raw flavor of the ingredients to come through.

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Into the soup goes the various types of beef offal, followed by plenty of cabbage and chive added to the boil. At Motsu Nabe Show Raku burdock root is also thrown in. Together with the burdock root soup stock, it creates a mouth-watering aroma. When the vegetables are done, it’s time to eat.

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To finish up, they recommend Hakata-exclusive noodles chanpon men.

Motsu Nabe Show Raku’s manager, Satoshi Mansho explained how the regulars eat motsu nabe.

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Chewing on additional order marucho, you will get the full flavor of the fat.

“For those who like the fat of offal, please try an additional order of marucho. The fatty part of the intestine is turned over into the inside, and on the outside you can enjoy the juicy fatty texture. It’s so tasty that even female diners can finish three portions before they know it.”

But after all, the deciding factors behind the flavor are the freshness and quality of the offal. At Motsu Nabe Show Raku, they use the highest quality beef from the Kyushu region. Each day there is a delivery of fresh raw offal, handled and presented with care to the customer.

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In addition, staff are always on hand to let you know when the nabe is ready to eat and when finished, so please ask away. In Fukuoka there is no shortage of friendly people to help out, and letting them handle your nabe experience will only make it all the more fun.

 

■Dip into rich chicken soup – mizutaki, a feast fit for the gods!

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Mizutaki is a nabe of cloudy chicken soup, overflowing with delicious umami flavor. Here, thin slices of chicken and vegetables are cooked together in a soup broth. The umami flavor condensed in the chicken broth determines the taste. Even when enjoying mizutaki at home, many people buy the soup from specialist stores. Mizutaki sets from such stores also make great presents or year-end gifts.

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In Hakata, summer is not complete without the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, and the fuel which gives participants strength for mountain climbing is none other than mizutaki. When giving an offering to Gion – the festival god of Kushita Shrine – a chicken was deemed more appropriate since eating a four legged animal in the shrine grounds is forbidden. The reason that mizutaki is also a favorite at formal receptions and New Year’s parties is perhaps because of this custom.

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We visited Hakata Hanamidori, a mizutaki specialist with its roots in a chicken meat shop established 1949, to hear more about how best to eat mizutaki.

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First, bring the cloudy chicken broth soup to a boil, then add chicken meat or minced meat. Adding slices of boned chicken gives the soup a greater depth of flavor. Then, add vegetables like onions and carrots, as well as some tofu. At Hakata Hanamidori, regular cabbage is used instead of Chinese cabbage since the latter contains a lot of water and may dilute the soup. To finish, a rice gruel is recommended so as to not waste any of the soup’s rich flavor.

We talked to the manager of Hakata Hanamidori’s Nakasu head branch, Shinichiro Ito, to learn more.

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“The soup is the lifeblood of our mizutaki. Please taste the soup before adding anything else. Then after the sliced chicken and vegetables have deepened the umami flavor, please taste the soup again to see the change.”

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“Hanamidori” brand chicken, with flesh bright pink. You can almost taste the rich umami flavor.

While the soup of Hakata Hanamidori was developed through trial and error, the key ingredient is the Hanamidori brand chicken raised at their poultry farm in northern Kyushu. In a spacious henhouse, bathed in sunshine, the chickens are kept in the cleanest conditions and eat a specially-developed feed. The fresh chicken carcass is slowly boiled in mineral water for four hours, and the scum is carefully hand-removed by their artisan cooks. Since the birth of this brand chicken in 1988, word of its deliciousness has reached the ears of new fans far and wide.

 

People are brought closer together when they surround the same nabe pot. In Fukuoka, motsu nabe and mizutaki are not simply dishes, but communication tools that connect us to one another. Motsu nabe or mizutaki – pick your flavor and pull up a chair.

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