First of all, happy 2012 everyone!
I hope your new year has gone off on a great start.
As for me, so far it’s feeling more like the 13th month of 2011…both boys got sick earlier this month (though not at the same time, thankfully) so for the past few weeks I’ve been mostly home with the crabby brothers…and now that they’re finally healthy again, it’s suppose to rain for the whole next week which means we’re kind of stuck in-doors again…Oh well.
Anyway, before the end of the year WordPress sent me a nice summary email of my blog stats for 2011…and supposedly, in the entire last year, I only posted 4 times. Really? I feel like I wrote more than that…hrm…
I know it’s hard to believe but I actually update my status on Facebook/Twitter at least once a day, sometimes as many as 3 – 4 times…
So in 2012 I’m going to channel some of that “energy” here, especially since the 2 – 3 of you who actually read this blog have told me that you’d like to see new updates.
Generally, I think I’ll post on the weekends. And if I get around to it, I’ll try to rotate between 3 – 4 topics, one of them being food/recipes.
And since tomorrow night is Chinese New Year’s Eve (I’m Taiwanese so that’s what I’m going to call it even though I know many other cultures celebrate it too), I’m going to share a hotpot recipe although it’s actually Japanese. I chose this recipe because 1) it’s very simple 2) I hardly hear anyone else who is not Japanese mention this style of hotpot 3) it’s from the Fukuoka region, one of my favorite places in the world.
Many years ago the term “hotpot” probably didn’t mean a whole lot to people outside Asia. But nowadays I think many people who live in large metropolitan cities have heard of this concept. In the past I’ve heard of it described as Asian fondue – which basically means that you cook and eat meats and vegetables cooked in a broth.
And for most Asians, this means sliced meat…and maybe seafood.
But Hakata Mizutaki features chicken and it’s probably one of the simplest yet great tasting hotpot dishes you can have, especially if you have access to high quality chicken.
As I mentioned earlier it originates from Fukuoka, Japan (though culturally people refers to things from that area as from “Hakata”) and here’s a link to the story behind its creation.
These days this dish can be enjoyed with two different broths – chicken (milky) or kombu dashi (seaweed stock). At home we mostly enjoy the kombu dashi style – it’s fast and the taste is more “pure.”
If you google “Hakata Mizutaki” you’ll see a variety of recipes for this dish. Here I’m just going to mention how we do it at home and why you’ll love it.
First, you want to get the highest quality dark chicken meat you can find. In my area the Japanese supermarkets usually stock some kind of chicken “nabe” (Japanese for hotpot) meat – cut up (small) pieces of chicken legs and wings. If you can find it pre-cut, that will be the easiest as the supermarkets cut them to the correct (bite) size for the hotpot.
Next you choose a selection of other things you want in the nabe. The main other ingredients (that go well with the chicken) are leek, napa cabbage, shungiku (tonghao in Chinese), mushrooms (fresh shiitake is the default), carrots and harusame (Japanese glass noodles).
For the basic broth, you just need a large piece of kombu (seaweed) – the kind that is meant for making stock.
Then lastly, for the dipping sauce you need Ponzu, or a citron flavored soy sauce.
If you are using the kombu broth suggested here, there’s not a lot of prep time. Just put your large piece (about 2 – 3 inches long) of kombu in cold water into your nabe pot. At home we use either a cast iron or clay pot. The key here is to put the kombu in the water when it’s cold. And many recipes I’ve seen calls for you to remove the kombu right before the water boils. I think this is suppose to provide the best “taste” of the dashi…but I’ve always just left it in there so maximize the extraction of the flavors.
Next, after the water starts boiling you can add the chicken and the leek (or green onion). If you don’t like sitting around waiting for things to cook slowly, you can always add all of the things together (although I highly recommend putting them into the pot in “zones” for the prettiest presentation) but I’d cook the meat for 4 – 5 minutes first since the vegetables cook more quickly and doing so also allows you to remove any scum/foam that come out of the meat first.
If your meat has been cut for nabe use, it shouldn’t take more than 7 – 10 minutes before you can enjoy your first bite. But if you’re unsure then you can give it a few additional minutes – poking through the parts around the bones to check for blood before taking it out. (Note: It just crossed my mind that some people might think it’s easiest to just use deboned meat – I’ve never tried this so I can’t tell you how that will change things but in Japan, Mizutaki is always made with bone-in meat that have the skin intact. So I assume that’s the best way to enjoy this nabe.)
If you serve the pot with everything cooked together then you can enjoy the items in whichever order you prefer, dipping everything in the Ponzu sauce.
If like us, you prefer to eat each item at its optimal doneness, then you put them into the pot to cook right before you want to eat them. For us, the preferred order is meat (with some leek or green onion), vegetables, then harusame.*
*A word about the harusame – although it’s texture/taste is similar to other types of glass noodles, the Japanese harusame is made in a slightly flat, broad shape like linguine so the resulting texture is the most ideal for mizutaki. However, it is much more expensive than the other glass noodles. So I usually substitute with Chinese glass noodles that also have the same flat, broad shape.
WHY IT’S TASTY
Before living in Japan, there were some foods that I didn’t appreciate much and one of them is chicken. Having lived most of my life in the US, before the recent “eat local,” “eat fresh” movements, chicken meat always seemed like of “stinky” or bland. But in Japan, where many farms still raise chicken the old fashion way, I learned how delicious chicken can be – a fragrant, succulent meat that taste great even with the simplest seasoning.
So if you have access to great quality chicken meat, I highly recommend that you try this nabe dish at least once.
At our home it’s kind of the go-to nabe on a cold day because we almost always have all of the ingredients we need.
And at the end, to finish your meal, put a bowl of cooked white rice into the leftover broth…let it stew for a few minutes before adding a scrambled (uncooked) egg. Add a splash of Ponzu and some chopped green onions and you have yourself a nice bowl of delicious chicken porridge (zosui).
Yumm…my mouth is salivating just thinking about it.
Anyway, again, happy new year. Here’s to another year of joyous times with family, friends, and FOOD!
(Photo credit: グルメ Walker)