35th Hale ‘Aina Winner: The Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Hot Pot in Honolulu
Hot pot newbies, simmer down. The pros at Ichiriki Japanese Nabe have your guide to the ultimate D.I.Y. dining experience.
All variations of hot pot (Mongolian, Chinese or Japanese) are traditionally eaten in the winter with people crowding to cook in communal pots. Ichiriki focuses on shabu shabu (boiling thinly sliced meat, noodles and vegetables in water or flavorful soup) and sukiyaki (cooking in shoyu-based broth in a shallow covered pot), with many of the ingredients coming directly from O‘ahu farms.
First timers are often wary of fish and beef tendon balls. We get it. Try the small fish balls first. They absorb the broth and seasonings nicely.
Beef is the most popular protein for hot potters, but shrimp is a close second. Shell and head on or off—we say it doesn’t matter. But we do prefer the jumbo version for the best texture and flavor.
If you choose your broth wisely, you won’t need to dip every bite into a sauce. But we think Ichiriki’s sesame dipping sauce is a perfect addition to every third bite.
The thick, chewy strands are the only noodle to opt for. End of discussion.
Prime rib eye
It’s easy to let a few items slip forgotten to the bottom of the pot, so we recommend Ichiriki’s prime rib eye. The fattier cut won’t get tough in the boiling broth. Still, try not to cook it for longer than four minutes.
Vegetables and tofu
Mushrooms, choy sum, bok choy, green onions, kuzukiri (clear noodles made from kudzu root powder), aburage and tofu round out the experience.
Like the beef, the paper-thin pork loin and belly stay tender. Go for fatty slices and cook for four to five minutes.
You need two sets of chopsticks; one for cooking and another for eating. A soup spoon scoops up all the broth and a strainer will help you nab every last slippery noodle.
Love gyoza? This piece of bamboo contains just the filling. Scoop the magnificent mixture into the pot in bite-size pieces and let them cook for six minutes.
You can get just one, but why wouldn’t you go for two? Both the basic Ichiriki, the restaurant’s take on a classic shoyu-based broth, and premium miso broth will pair nicely with the Thai tom yum soup, the in-house favorite.