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What is Motsunabe?
Motsunabe (もつ鍋) is a traditional type of “nabemono” (hot pot dish) primarily made with beef or pork offal, known as “motsu” or “horumon” in Japanese. It is a famous regional dish of the Hakata ward in Fukuoka city, located on the Western island of Kyushu.
Today, the standard motsunabe involves seasoning a bonito or seaweed broth with soy sauce or miso paste. Offal is added to the broth along with a generous amount of chives, cabbage, garlic, and optional chili peppers. Motsunabe is typically cooked in an aluminum pot over a flame, and once the ingredients are finished, the leftover broth is often enjoyed with ramen noodles.
I know that the idea of eating “motsu” or “horumon” can be quite intimidating, but motsunabe is truly delicious. The motsu not only melts into the broth to give it an amazing depth of flavor but also melts in your mouth. Motsunabe is the perfect dish for people trying motsu/horumon for the first time, I highly recommend it!
How I Developed This Recipe
Even for Japanese people living in Japan, motsu is an ingredient that can evoke two very different reactions: love or hate. Some people really enjoy it, while others can’t stand it.
Personally, I used to be one of those who’s not a fan, but as I’ve gotten older, I find myself appreciating its taste more and more.
It is true that motsu is fatty and chewy, but it’s also true that the soup that results from it is absolutely delicious. If you’ve already tried motsu in Japan and enjoyed it, I strongly recommend trying to make it at home!”
How to Choose the Right Offal
Some of you might wonder about the best type of offal to use when preparing motsunabe. In this section, I will provide an easy-to-understand introduction to recommended types of offal for motsunabe.
Firstly, it’s important to note that the essential ingredient for motsunabe is small beef intestines. This part is the most fatty, plump, and tender, and the fat carries a distinct sweetness. It’s safe to say that motsunabe is incomplete without this ingredient.
Some restaurants may include parts other than the small intestine in their “mix motsunabe”, like the large intestine or stomach parts (tripe) such as abomasum, rumen, and so on. While it’s uncommon to use pork or chicken hormone in motsunabe, some restaurants do offer it. However, in my opinion, beef small intestine is still the best choice.
Fresh small intestine of beef has pinkish muscles with visible milky fat and collagen. Keep in mind that it can darken over time if not properly treated. When selecting motsu, look for the “pink color” and examine the fat and the color of the collagen part. You can’t go wrong by choosing one with a clear and milky white appearance.
Ingredients & Substitution Ideas
- Beef Offal (Mostu): Opt for small intestines cut into bite-size pieces. This size is ideal for even cooking and easy eating.
- Vegetables: Use a mix of green cabbage, burdock roots (gobo), firm tofu, and garlic chives. They bring a wonderful variety of flavors and textures to the dish.
- Toppings: Enhance the dish with dried red chili pepper, garlic chips, toasted white sesame seeds, and ground sesame seeds. These add a delightful crunch and a pop of flavor.
- Cooked Champon/Ramen Noodles: Remember to wash the noodles after cooking to remove excess starch. This helps in achieving the perfect noodle texture.
- Dashi Broth: This is the base flavor of your broth. Choose from simple awase dashi, vegan dashi, or use instant dashi granules or packets for a quicker option.
- Chinese-Style Chicken Bouillon Powder: I regularly use Youki’s additive-free Garasupu.
- Light & Dark Soy Sauce: The recipe needs both light and dark soy sauces. For detailed information on their differences and brand recommendations, consult my Soy Sauce Guide.
- Mirin: Hon Mirin, like Hinode Hon Mirin, is my go-to for authentic Japanese flavor. My mirin guide can help you understand the differences between hon mirin and other types.
- Sake: I prefer unsalted drinking sake for its clean flavor, but cooking sake is also an option if you adjust the salt levels in the recipe accordingly.
- Oyster Sauce: Its addition brings an extra depth of flavor to the dish.
- Grated Garlic & Ginger: Either fresh or store-bought paste works fine, depending on what you have on hand.
- Sugar: Any type of sugar is okay, but I’ve been favoring light brown cane sugar in most of my dishes for its rich flavor.
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Visual Walkthrough & Tips
Here are my step-by-step instructions for how to make Authentic Motsunabe at home. For ingredient quantities and simplified instructions, scroll down for the Printable Recipe Card below.
The first step is to clean the motsu to remove any odors or unpleasant taste. To do this, first, place the motsu in a bowl of cold water and swish it around.
The motsu should be cut into small pieces, a little larger than bitesize. It’s easier to cut motsu using sharp kitchen scissors. I recommend cutting prior to washing.
Place a sieve or colander over the sink and pour in the contents of the bowl to drain the water. Wash the bowl out, fill it with fresh cold water and set it aside for later.
Next, fill a heatproof bowl with freshly boiled water and place the sieve with the motsu inside the bowl for 10 seconds. (I used a saucepan of hot water instead.)
After 10 seconds, lift the sieve up and give it a shake, then pour the motsu back into the bowl of fresh cold water. These steps will remove any unwanted odors and improve the taste of the motsu!
Drain the water before adding the motsu to the broth.
If you’re using burdock root, you will need to peel it and soak it before cooking. The skin is very thin, so I recommend using the back of a knife and carefully scrape it off (rather than using a peeler).
Thinly slice the burdock root and place it in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to improve the taste and avoid discoloration. Drain the water before adding the burdock root to the broth.
Making the broth is a simple process of mixing all the ingredients together in a pot. Motsunabe broth is made with dashi, chicken bouillon powder, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, mirin, sake, light brown sugar, oyster sauce, grated garlic and grated ginger.
Once the ingredients are mixed, place the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil over medium heat.
Once the broth is hot, add the motsu, burdock root, tofu and roughly chopped cabbage.
Lower the heat and simmer until the burdock root and cabbage have softened.
The toppings used on motsunabe are not only important for presentation but for flavor. Add the Chinese chives, chopped chili, garlic chips, and sesame seeds through the middle of the surface of the nabe.
Mix them in and allow to simmer for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to be absorbed into the broth.
In order to bring out the flavor in the motsunabe, place 1 tsp of ground sesame seeds in each serving bowl.
Hot pot dishes are typically served in the middle of the table, so dig in and enjoy!
Once all the ingredients have been eaten, it’s common to add cooked champon (or ramen) noodles to the broth. This part of the dish is something everyone looks forward to!
Be sure to boil the noodles separately before adding them to the soup. Preferably, rinse them after cooking to remove the excess starch and then place them in the broth.
Motsunabe (also sometimes known as horumon-nabe) is believed to have gained popularity in Fukuoka after 1945 when coal miners were searching for a dish that was both delicious and energizing. They turned to “motsu” (offal), which was often discarded at the time due to its perceived lack of value. They began cooking it in a simple aluminum pot, a tradition that carried on to this day.
As time went on, chives and garlic, known for their stamina-boosting properties, were added to the dish and seasoned with soy sauce. As the economy grew, cabbage was added to the recipe, creating the modern motsunabe as we know it. It is also common to add tofu and burdock root (gobo).
In the East of Japan (Kanto region), the popularity of motsunabe began in the 1990s when a Hakata-style motsunabe specialty restaurant opened a branch in Tokyo. The dish was also introduced on television, which further ignited its popularity due to its affordability, heartiness, and stamina-boosting qualities. It has now become so popular that it’s served not only at specialty restaurants but also at izakayas.
The term “motsu” refers to the internal organ parts of beef, pork, and chicken. It is believed that eating offal has been a part of Japanese culture since the 7th century. In 1933, “Nutritional Food in Emergencies,” was published in response to food shortages and includes a recipe for sautéing beef hearts in butter, stewing them with vegetables in brown sauce, and seasoning them with sake, salt, and pepper.
Today, motsu is used in some Japanese dishes besides motsunabe, such as yakitori (grilled meat skewers), horumon-yaki (grilled offal), and doteni (offal simmered with miso).
I briefly mentioned earlier that there are two names for offal in Japanese cuisine: “motsu” and “horumon”. However, there are a few distinct differences between the two.
Firstly, “motsu” refers to the offal of cows, pigs and chickens. Chicken offal such as cartilage, gizzards and liver, often served on skewers at yakitori establishments, are called “torimotsu”. Cow and pig offal are known as “gyumotsu” and “butamotsu” respectively. On the other hand, horumon is an umbrella term for cow and pig offal and does not include chicken.
Some people say that motsunabe is primarily made with small intestines, typically from beef, and is served as a hot pot dish. In contrast, horumon nabe refers to a dish that can contain any type of organs from cows, pigs or chickens. This means that depending on the restaurant, horumon nabe may include a variety of offal, not just small intestine.
Numerous Hakata restaurants specialize in motsunabe and offer a variety of broths. The two most popular are shoyu (soy sauce) and miso.
The most widely preferred soup base for motsunabe is shoyu. It is a favorite of many because it complements the rich flavor of motsu, and although it has a light taste, it pairs well with sake and is a popular choice with alcoholic beverages.
In contrast, miso-based motsunabe is valued for its deep, rich flavor. Due to its bold taste, it pairs well with rice, making it an excellent option for those who prefer to eat it with rice rather than noodles. Some restaurants offer salt-based, spicy, and mentaiko (cod roe) motsunabe as well.
Since it’s the most common, the recipe I’m sharing with you in this article is made with a basic soy sauce-based soup.
Motsunabe is a dish with a distinctive flavor that blends a simple broth with the rich fat and sweetness that emanates from the offal. It has a plump texture and melts in your mouth when you bite into it. It’s an incredibly flavorful dish, but those who dislike fatty meat may struggle to enjoy it. However, the flavor of motsunabe can differ significantly depending on the quality and freshness of the motsu used, so it is very important to use fresh and good quality offal in the dish.
I hope you enjoy this Motasunabe recipe! If you try it out, I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating in the comments below. It’s also helpful to share any adjustments you made to the recipe with our other readers. Thank you!
More Japanese Hotpot Recipes
Hakata Motsunabe (Japanese Offal Hot Pot)
- 200 g beef offal (mostu) preferably small intestines cut into bitesize pieces
- 250 g green cabbage (white or pointed) roughly cut
- 50 g burdock root(s) (gobo)
- 150 g firm tofu cubed
- 100 g garlic chive(s)
- 1-2 dried red chili pepper thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp garlic chips or dried garlic slices
- 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
- 2 tsp ground sesame seeds optional
- 2 portions cooked champon/ramen noodles wash after cooking to remove excess starch
- To wash the 200 g beef offal, place it in a bowl of cold water, swish it around and then pour it through a sieve placed over the sink to drain. Wash the bowl out, refill it with fresh cold water and set it aside.
- Fill a heatproof bowl (or large pot) with freshly boiled water and place the sieve with the offal in the water. Submerge for 10 seconds, then lift it up and shake. Pour the offal back into a bowl of fresh water and swill it around. Drain the water before adding the offal to the broth.
- Take 50 g burdock root(s) and scrape off the skin using the back of a knife. Thinly slice diagonally and soak in water for 5 minutes. Drain before adding to the broth.
- Take a large pot and add 800 ml dashi stock, 2 tbsp Chinese-style chicken bouillon powder, 4 tbsp light soy sauce, 2 tbsp dark soy sauce, 3 tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp sake, 1 tsp oyster sauce, 1 tsp grated garlic, 1 tsp grated ginger and 1 tsp light brown sugar.
- Mix it well and place the pot on the stove. Bring it to a boil over a medium heat.
- Once boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and add the washed beef offal, burdock root, 250 g green cabbage and 150 g firm tofu. Simmer until the burdock root and cabbage are slightly softened.
- Sprinkle 100 g garlic chive(s), 1-2 dried red chili pepper, 1 tbsp garlic chips and 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds over the surface. Mix and simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to be absorbed into the broth.
- Divide 2 tsp ground sesame seeds between each serving bowl.
- Use a ladle to distribute the motsunabe between the serving bowls, and enjoy until there are no ingredients left in the broth.
- Place 2 portions cooked champon/ramen noodles in the leftover broth.