Happy Chinese New Year! Try this Hakata Mizutaki (chicken hotpot) recipe today!

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.

INGREDIENTS

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.

COOKING PROCEDURE

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)

P.s. Hakata Mizutaki = 博多 水炊き
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友だち Friends

It’s not hard to see that this past year hasn’t been easy for me emotionally or spiritually. Though my recent posts might give the impression that I’m down in the valley all the time, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’m actually quite cheery in person because of  the wonderful group of friends God has provided to support and pray for us.

Just this week one of these dear friends emailed to see how I’m doing. Our conversation was brief but her encouragement uplifted my spirit all week and I’m eternally grateful to her and many of our other friends for their extra love and care.

So today, in honor of these dear friends I’d like to share a song from Imai Miki, one of my favorite singers. It’s a song about friendship and since it’s only in Japanese, I’m posting a rough English translation.

The video doesn’t tell much of a story but Imai Miki (who appears in the video) is beautiful…I hope that you will enjoy this simple but heartfelt song.

My dear friends,

I know that all of you face your own struggles yet you take the time to share in my burdens. Thank you for crying and laughing with me through all of the ups and downs.

I love you and hope that someday I will be able to lend you the same kind of strength and comfort as well.

**************

「友だち」今井美樹

Tres chere amie

Dearest friend

ありがとう

Thank you

返事がまた遅くなってごめんなさい

I’m sorry to reply late again

あの日からあなたのこと

とても心配してたの

Ever since that day I’ve been so [or very] worried about you

元気になってよかったわ

I’m glad that you’re now [feeling or doing] better

彼も気づいたでしょう

I’m sure he must have also realized (by now)

やっぱりあなたが誰よりいちばん

大切だってこと

that you are more important than anyone else after all

何げない私からの

言葉に救われたなんて
不思議よね そう言われて

I was amazed when you told me that something I had said offhand [or casually] actually helped you

私も励まされたわ

[And] I was in turn encouraged by what you said.

一年前のあの頃と
想像できないくらい
空気も時間も今は穏やかに
流れてる感じよ

Space and time seem to be passing by so calmly now in a way that is unimaginable (at that time) a year ago.

あの時 あなたやみんなが
支えてくれたことが
今でも私の宝物だって
いつでも思ってる

The support that you and everyone gave me at that time is my treasure [or is precious to me] even to this day.

A bientot また逢いましょう

Goodbye. Let’s meet again!

Je t’ embrasse 連絡ください
待っているわ

“Hugs and kisses” Please be in touch [or contact (me)]. I’ll be waiting.

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Note: the original Japanese flows beautifully but my literal English translation is choppy. I’m not completely happy with the translation so I will probably play around with it some more to see if the English can flow as smoothly as the original – please check back later if you’re interested.