Mizutake is a hot pot dish that embodies Chinese and Western elements and is a popular dish of Fukuoka, Japan. Traditionally a winter dish, it is now served throughout the year.
Heisaburo Hayashida traveled to Hong Kong at the tender age of 15 and lived with an English family. He studied Western cooking during his stay there. After returning to Japan, Heisaburo blended the consommé with the Chinese method of simmering chicken in water to create a soup.With the addition of vegetables in season, and then ending the meal by adding a starch like rice, he created a type of “zosui,” or a Japanese-style porridge. Mizutake was thought to have been created in Fukuoka in 1905 when Heisaburo opened Suigetsu Restaurant. His dish spread throughout the country and is very well known as Hakata-ni.
Seven years ago, the Rotary Club of South Hilo sponsored an exchange student, Nana Ishikawa of Japan. I have been in contact with her since, following her life as she went off to college, went to work in Osaka, Tokyo, and then to Fukuoka to work and move back home with her family. Nana and her mother took us to Hana Midori Mizutaki Restaurant, which was walking distance from our hotel in the Tenjin district of Fukuoka. The waitresses and waiters wore kimono, which added to the ambience of the restaurant and its signature dish.
The chicken is a special brand and tastes fresh and clean. The first course of several small dishes included “okyu-to,” or seaweed, from Hakata, raw chicken sashimi served with raw garlic, onion slices, and beet sprouts. It scared me to eat raw chicken because we always preach about cooking our chicken until there is no pink color or blood. But I had to overcome that thought and surprisingly enjoyed the mild, sweet taste of the raw chicken sashimi. Boiled chicken skin was prepared with a light soy sauce and placed in another small dish. The last little dish was called “ebi-shinjo” and included a very small piece of steamed or boiled okra, shredded “yama-imo,” or mountain yam, which is slimy when grated, “naga-imo,” or long yam, and a shrimp-surimi ball.
There’s a method to eat mizutake. The waiter placed a pinch of salt in a little cup, similar to a tea cup, and poured the creamy chicken broth into it. A separate bowl of green onions was on the table for those wanting to add it into the soup. The soup was so tasty, similar to a chicken soup that has been cooked for a day! It was not watery but creamy.
Our waiter served ground chicken in a bamboo dish. Nana’s mother said it contained ground chicken, egg and “yama-imo.” He artfully swirled the ground chicken with his wooden spoon and made perfect balls, then dropped them into the simmering broth. Next he added boneless chicken, chicken heart and liver, and one block of collagen.
This block, which the Japanese love because they say it is good for the skin, was thickened broth that was refrigerated until it could be cut into blocks. Tofu, yuba, green cabbage and “naga-negi” of long green onion, mizuna and enoki mushrooms were then added.
We all helped ourselves to the mizutaki hot pot and enjoyed eating and talking together. Mizutaki is a social-type food where all participate in adding vegetables into the pot and scoop out whatever you want to eat.
When we were done, the waiter returned and asked us whether we wanted rice of noodles in the remaining broth. We choose noodles, the Maroni brand of “kuzukiri” noodles, made from “kuzu” starch. Surprisingly, as much as the noodles were cooked, they maintained their shape and texture.
Kaumana-born Kai‘ainoa Ravey has returned to Hilo after 18 years away and is now the executive chef at the Hilo Yacht Club. Kai‘ainoa graduated from Hilo High School in 1994 and headed off to Oahu, working at Big Island Steak House at Aloha Tower until its closure. He then moved to New York where he went to school to become an engineer. While there he went to various restaurants to volunteer his time in their kitchens. At Trinity Place, he worked for Donald Crosby and learned Irish cuisine, and under Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 he learned molecular gastronomy. Unfortunately, because of a real estate development, WD-50 will be closing at the end of this year after a fabulous 11-year run. After a move to New Mexico, Kai‘ainoa worked at Farm and Table in Albuquerque, a small restaurant which raises 90 percent of what they serve, including cattle, fresh eggs, and vegetables. Later, he moved to Santa Fe to be the executive chef at the Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino where he incorporated the influences of Hawaiian and Asian flavors into his style of cuisine. He now goes to work at the Hilo Yacht Club, looks out at the ocean waves, and is very appreciative to be able to come back to his home town!
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