A Fukuoka specialty dish, that has been booming all over Japan recently, is "motsu nabe", which translates as "offal hot pot". It`s a simple, healthy, inexpensive dish. The exact recipe and method to making it is rather open to interpretation of the restaurant you choose. We looked into a Kyoto style place, thanks to attractive pictures like this that Eric Eto hounded out in an earlier post (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33870...
--> http://www.echigoya-h.jp/secret.htm). But we ended up settling on a well known shop called "Motsu Nabe Hiro" in the Yakuin part of town. Popular with celebrities, the walls are covered with autograph boards and photos. The soup was a simple chicken broth, on top of which was piled with fresh cabbage, green garlic shoots, and chopped pieces of various chicken parts. Rather then using a lid to control the cooking speed of the vegetables, they pile on top of everything some raw gyoza skins (http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n1...). The skins and constant flame management by the guys running around insure that everything is cooked to perfection. After a few minutes, it's ready to eat, whereby you snag what you can from the hot pot and dip it in your own small bowl of ponzu. It's all very light and crunchy, fresh and good. Yuzu-koshou, which is the condiment of choice in Fukuoka, gives the ponzu a little extra kick. Yuzu-koshou is a sort of fruity relish made of grated yuzu skin, red pepper, garlic, and sea salt. In Fukuoka, I found that it is used as an alternative to grated ginger or sometimes wasabi, as the condiment of choice(http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n1...). So this was my first time to eat motsu nabe and as we quickly finished off all the cabbage and chicken parts, I was feeling fairly unimpressed with the dish and the restaurant and pondered why it was so popular. But at this point, we were confronted with a question from a staff member- What kind of noodles do you want? I can`t remember what the other options were because "goma soba" (sesame noodles) sounded interesting and it was recommended with stars on the menu. The guy then fetched some "champoru" noodles and threw them in the pot with some of the remaining broth. Stirring with a long pair of chopsticks with one hand, he grabbed from the other end of our table a large container of black, ground sesame seeds, that he shook vigorously over our noodles while stirring with that other hand. Everything took on the dark hue of the sesame and there was a bit of hissing and popping from stray seeds that fell into the fire. He let it sit for a while as he turned up the flame to burn off the water. Sitting there staring at this black twisted noodle concoction, I started to reach over and do a bit of stirring myself. But I was quickly scolded by the guy and told to let him do it.
"Everyone wants to stir it when they see it in front of them. But you`ve got to sit and it work itself out, “he told me. Keeping my hands now cupped around my glass of potato shochu, I sat back and watched him work the flame and the noodles till all the liquid was gone in the pot. Finally he said, we can eat. What lay before us was a twisted mound of slightly sinister looking black sesame noodles, glistening a bit, still moist from being cooked in the broth. We were instructed to dip the noodles in the ponzu with the yuzu-koshou. They guy walked away. His work was done. (http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n1...).
I had to try it as it was, just plain, noodles and sesame. Not surprisingly, it was not good. Just the two basic ingredients. BUT, when I followed our instructions and dipped a wad of noodles into the ponzu I had a food ephiphany- one of those moments when you've encountered something- as taste and flavor combination, that you have never experienced before. When I threw in some of the yuzu-koshou, the experience ratcheted up even more. Both my companion and myself were blown away with how tasty the noodles were. It was gummy, tangy, nutty, fruity, sweet, spicy, and salty all at once. There was no mistaking the different elements that you were eating, but the combination of the tastes together made for an unforgettable experience for me. And it all went down so good with iced shochu.
Ordered: Motsu nabe + goma soba + gyoza +several glasses of shochu
Cost: About 6,000 YEN for 2
Reservations: A good idea. It gets busy.
Location: Yakuin (Yakuin Station), Hakata, Fukuoka
Open: 6:00pm- 1:30 am, M-S, Closed on Sunday