Hakata Tonton

Japan is a small island country, but within it lies a rich variety of cuisine. As odd as it sounds, despite growing up in Japan, I never got a chance to delve into or explore the many different faces of Japanese cuisine. I was always longing for “foreign” dishes that to me, were exotic and exciting. Now that I live in the US there’s a reversal of perspective—Japanese food has become my “longing,” to discover the many dishes each region has to offer.

For instance, take Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture, located in the southern region of Kyushu Japan. Hakata is widely known for their specialty ramen and also their ever popular “motsu nabe.” Motsu nabe is a Hakata-style hot pot that usually consists of either beef or pork intestines and a variety of vegetables simmered in a delicious broth. Yes, disgusting to some but for the adventurous, it’s a delightful and delicious discovery!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t fly out to Japan, but we did find a restaurant that serves a delicious spread of Hakata-style specialty dishes. Hakata Tonton located in the West Village on the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue has brought to New York authentic Kyushu Japanese soul food. As described in their about page, some of these dishes may seem “strange to the eye, but are delicious renditions of the food made famous in Hakata, Japan.”

The main eating area is very small, but there is another secret entrance just around the block that takes you to the back where there is more space for seating. It was there that we were seated at a nice cozy corner and were offered steaming hot roll of wet towels to cleanse and warm up our hands. As we had done some research before, we were ready to order immediately. To start off we got three appetizers, the Foie Gras Inari Sushi, TONTON Famous Homemade Gyoza, and their Garlic Fried Rice. The inari sushi, sticky rice wrapped in sweet fried tofu skin, was topped off with a beautiful foie gras steak, which was melt-in-your mouth tender and oddly enough, paired well with the sweetness of the rice and tofu skin. The gyoza was served on a sizzling hot cast iron plate, perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. But the garlic fried rice might have been one of the best things there. Made with pork tonsoku (pork feet!), egg, and plenty of garlic aroma, the dish was topped off with scallion and fragrant cilantro. Finally for the star of the show, the Hakata Tonton Hot Pot that included their special collagen broth (beautifying for the skin!) tofu, chicken, dumplings, cabbage, chives, spinach, Berkshire pork belly, and pork feet. There was no heavy pork smell, the broth was clean and spicy, and surprisingly very light. We made sure to leave a bit of soup, vegetables, and meat for the rice bibimbap, which was the perfect finish to our meal.

We recommend making a reservation in advance and coming to Hakata Tonton famished! Trying a variety of dishes and exploring their menu will insure you get the full experience of Hakata cuisine this special restaurant has to offer.

Hakata Tonton
61 Grove St, New York, NY 10014
(212) 242-3699
www.tontonnyc.com

Domo Williamsburg

2017 is finally here and we decided to celebrate the new year with a traditional Japanese dish, mochi. Mochi can be eaten all year round in many different forms, but it plays a huge role especially during New Year’s Day. On this special day, kagami mochi decorations are put on display at homes all across Japan. These ornaments comprise of two flattened circular mochi patties stacked on top of the other, and finished off with a mandarin orange at the very top. We also cook a special clear broth soup called ozoni that includes toasted mochi. Unfortunately, we did not decorate our apartments with kagami mochi nor did we cook ozoni. Rather, we headed over to Domo Williamsburg for a different kind of mochi that you don’t usually eat on New Year’s Day, but is equally as delicious.

Domo Williamsburg located on the corner of Jackson Street and Manhattan Avenue is a small Japanese eatery/grocery store that stocks everything from candy to cup ramen, and of course, a menu consisting of homemade rice balls, sandwiches, an array of teas, and dangos. For those who are not familiar, dango are little mochi balls that are usually served with wood or bamboo skewers. At this particular eatery, you can order from a variety of red bean paste, sesame, and mitarashi (soy sauce flavor). We had to go with two orders of the mitarashi dango, because as little girls we had fond memories of this sweet and savory snacks. Originating from Kamo Mitarashi Tea House in Kyoto, Japan, the mitarashi dango is made with a thick, sweet soy sauce glaze that also has a deep toasted flavor. Often times, a sheet of nori seaweed is carefully wrapped around the dango, providing a little bit of texture and enhancing that toasty quality of the dish. At Domo Williamsburg, the dangos come in nice paper coverings and served on a beautiful wooden platter.

If you love dangos as much as we do or have never eaten one and want to try out some traditional dangos, we highly recommend dropping by Domo Williamsburg. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a few snacks for later!

Domo Williamsburg
359 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
domowilliamsburg.com

Anna’s Soba Noodle Recipe

One thing we love equally as much as eating out is cooking at home. For our very first recipe post, we’re sharing a quick and easy way to whip up a heartwarming noodle dish for the cold months.

Soba noodles hold a very special place in our hearts. When we were growing up, every Sunday when our grandpa would visit our home, we would order from a noodle place that delivered delicious soba and udon noodles, hot or cold. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, but when I make soba noodles, it brings instant comfort and happiness to any dull day.

Of course, it’s up to you what you prefer in your noodles, but nailing the broth and perfectly cooked noodles are key. Most days I don’t feel like making my broth from scratch, but lucky for you and me, a lot of grocery stores nowadays carry soba or udon noodle concentrates. My personal favorite is the Kikkoman brand hondashi, a mixture of bonito and kelp broth with soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. If you have a hard time finding these ingredients at your local grocery store, there’s always Amazon. I’ve added links of products I recommend for some of the harder-to-find ingredients below.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once water comes to a full boil, place soba noodles in pot. Refer to package for proper cooking time.
  2. While the soba noodles cook, combine Hondashi and water (1:4 ratio) in a separate pot. Bring to a simmer and include dried seaweed, chives, and egg.
  3. Take out soba noodles while still al dente and include in the Hondashi mixture with other ingredients. Cook another minute, and serve in a bowl.
  4. Optional: sprinkle togarashi pepper to taste

Look out for more recipes to come!

Taiyaki NYC

Although fall is in full swing, we couldn’t resist posting about this cold treat. Taiyaki NYC is the newest dessert place that has everyone, including us, talking. Located on Baxter Street between Hester and Canal Street, this sweet joint brings an exceptionally unique take on the traditional Japanese (also Korean) fish-shaped cake, known as taiyaki. The shop specializes in soft serve with taiyaki “cones” with their distinct twist being the fish’s mouth is stretched an inch or two to accommodate a variety of ice cream flavors. There’s topping and filling options too, from mochi to fresh strawberries, custard to red bean paste. Since it was our first time, we decided to go with The Classic ($7), complete with vanilla soft serve, custard filling, fresh strawberries, wafer sticks, and chocolate drizzle. The soft serve was a welcomed addition to the often times plain treat, although midway through, we did start to panic as the upper half threatened to topple over. So our recommendation, do not take your time eating this…you won’t regret it!

Taiyaki NYC
119 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013
www.taiyakinyc.com

Ippudo: Hakkaisan Ramen

One of the things we love about Ippudo is their constant ability to get experimental with their dishes. This Monday, August 8th was Hakkaisan Day—Hakkaisan (translated: Eight Peaks) is a famous sake brewery known for their top quality sake—and to celebrate, Ippudo’s Ramen Master Fumihiro Kanegae (aka Foo) created a dish called Hakkaisan Ramen. This special bowl of noodles claimed to be the world’s first clear miso ramen, where the broth consists of Hakkaisan and kombu, dark roasted rice that was aged for two years, red and white miso, and kagura nanban pepper radish for some added spiciness. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Ippudo specialty if each ingredient didn’t represent something: the aonori (fragrant Japanese seaweed flakes) infused noodles and soup represent the Land, the Duck Chashu is Mount Hakkai, and the grated daikon radish infused with wasabi is the snow. Eaten all together, the broth had a delightfully sweet, light flavor and the noodles hinted at an earthy aonori seaweed flavor. All this was accompanied with Hakkaisan’s Tokubetsu Junmai—a crisp, smooth sake with the a hint of sweetness—that came in Snow Peak’s special Double Wall Titanium Sake cup that kept our beverage chilled. We wish you could have tried this, but to make things a little better, we got word from Ippudo that they will be reinventing their entire menu this coming fall!

Ippudo
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 388-0088

Ippudo Westside
321 W 51st Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 974-2500

ippudony.com