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I Love Pork; I Love Hakata Tonton

I Love Pork; I Love Hakata Tonton

Category: Hiroko's Blog

The story about “An Iowa Farmer’s Quest for No Ordinary Pig” on the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/us/with-iowa-swabian-hall-a-farmers-quest-for-perfect-pig.html?pagewanted=all ) made me hungry for delicious pork meal. So, I headed to Hakata Tonton in New York City.

The name of the restaurant, Hakata Tonton, is easy to remember and fun to pronounce. “Hakata” is a ward/district in Fukuoka city in Fukuoka Prefecture in the Kyushu island, the largest southern island of Japan. The direct translation of “ton-ton” is pig-pig. Even though meat eating was bunned throughout Japan until the modernization of the country in 1868, it is said that the locals in the present Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefectures in the Kushu Island called pig as “a special vegetable which has an ability to walk!” and consumed it. Raizing quality pig and the love of pork eating spread through the Kyushu island. Today the whole population across Japan loves pork and the volume of consumption of pork surpasses chicken or beef.

Here is the executive chef, Koji Hagihara, who was presenting us his today’s special. Hakata Tonton is a casual restaurant which specializes pork dishes, pork hot pot dishes and other popular Japanese items, but a talented chef Hagihara does something more than the usual. On the right side you see a sashimi of tokobushi presented in its own shell. Tokobushi is a small abalone whose raw meat is heavenly, pleasantly crunch and has umami-rich, seafreeze flavor. He served this sashimi with two sauces. One is the kimo sauce, which is made from tokobushi’s very fresh liver, a standard one from Japanese kitchen. The another sauce is sliced scallion and sesame oil sauce, from Chinese kitchen. On the left side you see monk fish liver in basil seeds added-ponzu sauce in a small glass cup.

Chef Hagihara cooked only Chinese dishes in Japan before coming to New York City several years ago. He was selected as an executive chef at a Japanese-owned, fancy Chinese restaurant, Wakiya, which opened at Gramacy Park Hotel in New York City in 2008. The Japanese style, refined Chinese meal served at Wakiya was not a big hit. The restaurant closed within one year and Chef Hagihara stayed. Good decision making.

The next photo is a pig foot with cucumber dish. He cooks pig feet in plenty of water for hours until tender. The tender but yet crunch foot is cut up, mixed with chopped cucumber, and dressed with hot chile oil sauce. It is a humble, fun and great for beer dish. The remaining broth in which the pigs feet were cooked becomes an important broth to add to many dishes he creates in his kitchen.

The final photo is one of the Hakata Tonton specialty hot pot dish – pork belly and lots of soybean sprouts cooked together. Chef Hagihara serves the hot pot with his special sauce – a mixtrure of Szechwan peppercorn, soy sauce and other seacret ingredients. A numbing property of Szechwan peppercorn is an exciting experience, Chef claims. After finishing all of the pork and soybean sprouts in the pot a waiter brought us a bowl of pre-cooked yellow noodles and a cup of ground black sesame seeds. The waiter cooked the nodles first in the remaining broth in the pot until the starchy water coated the noodles. Cooking time was over 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t worry about over cooking the noodles. They are using the very special type called champon noodles from Hakata. Champon noodles are known to withstand long cooking. Cooked noodles were then tossed with lots of ground sesame seeds – a Hakata specialty. Delicious noodles quickly went into my stomach before I noticed that I did not take a photo of it. If you are a fun of pork or a fun, casual hot pot meal, try Hakata Tonton.

Mochi Ice Cream, Again

Today I had an opportunity to chat with David Nash, sales manager of Mikawaya, LA, at the International Restaurant and Food Service Show at the Jacob Javit Center in New York City. I just posted mochi ice cream blog a month or so, so when I passed by the Mikawaya booth and read the signboard which claims that Mikawaya invented mochi ice cream in America, I froze in front of it.

According to David Nash, Mikawaya, as a bakery and confectionery store, was founded by Mr. Hashimoto in 1910 in Los Angeles. During World War II the family was sent to concentration camp. After the War a great niece of the founder, Frances Hashimoto, purchased the business from her great uncle and resumed the family business. Frances, a devotted business woman and loved by her employees, did not retire until she is 97 years old. She received an award from the Emperor in Japan as an successful Enterprenuer of Japanese Business in America. She died at the age of 101 years old.

Mikawaya came up with mochi ice cream in 1994. Since then, mochi ice cream business does not stop growing. There are 7 flavors – strawberry, chocolate, green tea, vanila, mango, kona coffee and red beans. David claims that their ice cream is a top class one. It is made from “Manufacturing”cream which they pasturize it, homogenize it and make it into ice cream.

Mikawaya now has additional products. It is Gourmet Ice Cream made in a quality method. It is HACCP, and certified Kosher and Halal. Their product is weekly tested for Environmental Listeria. They use -25 degree F temperature to store their product. This is a 5 degree lower than the standard practice. Unfortunately all of the mochi ice cream and new Gourmet Ice Cream line for tasting were gone at the time of my visit. Now I know how mochi ice cream is made, so I will stop by at Trader Joe sometime to pick some up.

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