The “mizu” of mizutaki means “water,” but banish any thoughts this may conjure up about the dish being watery. This hot pot dish originated in western Japan, but is now popular all over the country. Depending on the restaurant, the clear broth gets its flavor from dried seaweed (“konbu”) and/or chicken, boiled until the konbu flavor is extracted or, at a gentle simmer, until the broth is rich and the chicken cooked tender. The chicken used is, as a matter of course, the dark meat variety, with cut up thigh meat and chicken wings being the standard setup. White meat chicken just doesn’t seem to have the fat levels or flavor demanded by chicken connoisseurs in Japan.
Once the chicken is cooked, and the broth possibly seasoned a bit, everything is removed from the broth. It is from here that the customer participation segment begins. Hot pot with broth installed is brought to the tables, as is cooked chicken pieces, and an assortment of vegetables. From here, it is your job to (1) cook, (2) accentuate, and (3) eat. It’s not a particularly arduous roster of responsibilities, but there are a few important notes to make.
For step one, the cooking, you may just be heating up already cooked chicken, or you may be actually cooking the chicken. Keep this in mind, and be careful not to overcook something that is already cooked (if that is indeed the case). The vegetables do indeed need to be cooked, but don’t dump them all in once because, if you do, the water temperature will drop and you also won’t be able to eat all of them at the same time.
The soup gives a delicious, subtle, but still complex flavor profile, yet a little something extra is called for before vittle delivery to the mouth. Thus, your step two requires you to accentuate. This traditionally means giving the food a quick dip in ponzu soy sauce, but can also, depending on your predilections, involve chopped green onion, grated Japanese radish (daikon), or citrus infused salt & pepper. Regional and chef variances may dictate your experience to a degree, as the dish originated in Western Japan, but has evolved as its popularity has spread.
The meal is generally ended with rice or noodles added to the remaining soup, making for a satisfying finish to a hearty dinner.
Looking to try mizutaki in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.