A Divine Motsunabe in Fukuoka
During my recent Food escapades in Japan and more especially on the island of Kyushu, i had the chance to visit the compelling city of Fukuoka for a few days. From a food enthusiast perspective, a pilgrimage to Fukuoka is a key milestone to experience delightful specialities and learn more about Japanese food. First and foremost, Fukuoka is the birthplace of the world-renowned Hakata Ramen. However, it is also famous for interesting dishes such as spicy Mentaiko, the soul food Motsunabe and the typical Yatai food stalls that you can find all around the city.
Fukuoka is a nice city to visit with a really friendly vibe. In comparison to the Megalopolis that is Tokyo, Fukuoka is a more accessible human-size city. You can visit most of the place simply by walking. You have all type of areas depending on what you are looking for: from the trendy Shopping district in Tenjin, the incredibly well designed Canal City Hakata, the Momochi seaside park to the never-ending nightlife in Nakasu.
What is a Motsunabe?
If you have never heard of the dish Motsunabe (もつ鍋) before it is a famous speciality from Fukuoka. As per the name, Motsunabe is a variant of Nabemono. The Nabemono (なべ物) or Nabe is a pillar of Japanese cuisine; It is a cooking speciality of hot pot dishes, stew, soup,… (think of Sukiyaki, Shabu Shabu, Chankonabe,…). There are hundreds of variations of Nabe in Japan, Motsunabe being one of them.
Motsunabe comes from the contraction of the word Motsu and Nabe. Motsu means the Offals which are basically the internal organs of an animal consumed as food (Tripe, Liver, kidney, heart, tongue,… ). Motsunabe is with no surprise a hot pot dish made of Offals (mostly Tripes). The recipe also includes vegetables such as Cabbage, chives, garlic and a broth made of soy sauce, mirin, sake and bonito.
It is important to seize the opportunity and experience Motsunabe while you are visiting Fukuoka. Opposite to Ramen, Yakisoba or Sushi, It is a dish you will hardly find anywhere else, especially if you are travelling from overseas.
The idea of eating Offal or Tripes might be repulsive for some of you, however, i would really recommend you to be adventurous. The taste is really surprising and delicious, it does not carry the strong flavour we usually associate with Offals (At least not at Shoraku).
Motsunabe Shorakuもつ鍋笑楽 :
Motsunabe Shoraku もつ鍋笑楽 福岡本店 is a restaurant in Fukuoka specialised in Motsunabe since 1985. They have three locations in Fukuoka including Tenjin, Haruyoshi and one restaurant near Hakata station. Shoraku is one of the places that were recommended to me by my friends when i asked them about a good Motsunabe in Fukuoka.
The restaurant i visited was the one in Tenjin. We went for dinner on a Saturday night and had to wait a quick 15 minutes before being seated. The restaurant is a really cosy place, they have counter seats on the first floor and more private party tables on the upper floor. We were seated on the upper floor with wider tables, which seems frankly much more comfortable for this type of meal.
Once seated the waiter will welcome you with a menu (both in English and Japanese cf.below). The main dishes offered in the menu is the obvious speciality: the Motsunabe, also called Offal Hotpot. The cost starts at ¥1280 per person
You will have to choose between a soy, salt or a white miso base broth. We went for the soy base. The restaurant is reputed to have a special homemade soy sauce based soup and i wanted to try it (it does not disappoint).
The standard offer included in the Motsunabe at ¥1250 includes small intestines, mixed offal, cabbage, chives, burdock, garlic,…. In addition to that, you can buy as many toppings as you want including offals, tofu and all type of vegetables. The price will vary from ¥300 for the veggies to ¥850 for the offals as you can see below.
The Motsunabe Experience at Shoraku:
The meal: Once you have ordered your dishes, the staff will prepare your table. They will bring you a portable gas stove, several bowls to serve your food and kitchen utensils to cook. If you are the type of people who goes to a restaurant and complain that you have to cook your own food, Shoraku is probably not a place for you. Otherwise you will have a fun time cooking your Motsunabe! (There isn’t much to do really)
They will bring you a large pan filled with all the ingredients that they place on the portable stove top. Then, they will light the fire and give you a timer. They will explain some basic some cooking instructions and ask you to wait for a certain time before starting eating. You are then left one your own with your Motsunabe. Itadakimasu!
After around 10 minutes of cooking, your dish will be ready. This is how the Motsunabe looks when it is cooked (Just writing this article and looking at those pictures makes me want to eat it again). You can see the white slices of Offals, the delicious vegetables and the light broth.
This is a typical serving for two persons. You use the large spoon and the bowls on the side to serve yourself and your party, then the feast can start!
Once you have finished your offals and vegetables, you can top up the soup left by adding Champon noodles (a speciality from Nagasaki) or Rice for an extra ¥300. We went for the Champon noodles as you can see below. They bring it to you and you cook them directly within the broth for a few minutes. It was absolutely delicious and a perfect way to end the meal.
Taste: When you tell people about eating Offals and tripes the first thing that usually comes to their mind is either a disgusted gimmick or a complaint about the strong taste.
When i tried the Motsunabe at Shoraku i was expecting the meat to have a strong taste (In fact, I am one of the few people who actually do enjoy the strong taste of offals). To my surprise it wasn’t strong at all, it was delicious, slightly sweet and really tasty. The texture as well was really pleasing, really tender. (Maybe it is because they are using offals from Wagyu beef)
The broth, made from chicken bone and homemade special soy sauce amongst other things was delightful, it was light yet rich and flavourful. Both sweet and salty and a good umami. The broth absorbs the flavour of the offals and vegetables while you cook them and it just seems to get better and better through the meal. The choice of the vegetables is really good, the taste of each of them accompany and compliment the dishes perfectly. Their delicate flavour was really pleasing.
We ordered a Kaarage on the side and it was perfectly prepared as well. Crispy and tender, it was served as 6 big chunks of deep fried meat with a crispy coating. I really recommend ordering it as an extra. Considering the size of the Motsunabe, one plate of Kaarage would be enough for two people.
Service: The service at Shoraku was great. We had a friendly waitress who took the time to explain everything in details (the cooking preparation, the recommendations,…) and came many times during the meal to check if everything was fine. In fact, she was running the upper floor on her own which was quite impressive considering the number of people eating there at the time.
As mentioned above the place has an English menu which is super helpful if you are not reading Japanese. Same if you don’t speak Japanese, the staff will accommodate with basic English which is more than enough to take your order.
Also, one thing i forgot to mention, the tables located on the upper floor are (Kitsuen Seki) smoking table. It is fine if you and your party are smokers, otherwise, you can easily be disturbed by the smoke of other customers.
Price: Price wise the Motsunabe at Shoraku is really a bargain. For two people the total bill was around ¥4000 ( +-30€ / $36) including drinks and extras. It is a steal! Great price for value to taste one of the most interesting dishes Fukuoka has to offer.
Overall: We had a great time. The food was delicious and we left the place full and happy. A must try if you like to try new things. Don’t miss this occasion while you are in Japan!
“A Delightful experience at Shoraku.
Their Motsunabe should definitely reconcile you with Offals if it is not your thing.
A Must try speciality if you are visiting Fukuoka.
Price for value: 4/5
〒810-0002 福岡県福岡市中央区 西中洲11−4 笑楽ビル
Opening Hours :
- Monday – Thursday : 17:00 – 24:00
- Friday – Sunday : 17:00 – 01:00