May 25, 2012

When Gross is Great

I come from a family that readily eats what others consider gross. I have parents obsessed with their never ending search for the perfect tongue taco in Florida and launched a tradition when stationed overseas to always try every strange food that came, and continues to come, at them. I proudly continue to be bold and at least give a new food a few bites. I've been surprised at what I have liked (raw horse meat, whale sushi and grilled, whole squid  and admittedly, have choked down a few things that were quite gross including grilled chicken skin, boiled fish in tube form and this:

This is Motsu. It's a rustic soup  slow cooked that usually has a stock made with miso and garlic. The supporting actors are veggies (usually daikon radish, onion and konnyaku,) but the star is a combination of organs and entrails. In Japan, this soup is usually from an unlucky pig or cow and featured at a yakitori bar. Now, I'm not saying that I've disliked every motsu I've tried. Some are much better than others. There are those, however, that upon the raising of the lid, release a funk in the restaurant. The smell is a direct reflection of the featured organ's function. Aw hell, you're all adults--it smells like POOP!  I mean, I've been to restaurants where people made faces of surprise when we've had this brought to us. They were either thinking "I didn't know Americans ate anything other than hamburgers, pizza or spaghetti," or more likely, "god that looks/smells disgusting, is that American really going to eat that?!"

Okay, that's only been our experience at one or two places. The photo on your right was taken at a bar near our house and the owner makes a solid motsu. Organs are exceptionally cleaned,  stock is seasoned well and the aroma makes you want to run for a spoon, not for the hills.  Location will remain anonymous because it only seats eight people and when I need a beer and a stick, well, I need a beer and a stick! But I will refer you to two places that have GREAT motsu!

One is about as low-end as you can get: 
Alley-facing Sagamiya stand
Yakitori Sagamiya is also nicknamed  by Americans as "the stand up yakitori place" or "the back alley yakitori stand" in Yokosuka and yet a lot of them never even bother to go in and grab a seat. Inside, the menu is bigger and they have ice cold beer and really great motsu. It's not the cleanest place in the world and you'll undoubtably sit next to blue collar workers smoking like chimneys, but try it at least once. It's easy to find as it's right off the main "blue" street across from TGIFridays whom I will never mention in this blog again.

Another place with really great food is Hideyoshi Yakitori Bar in Kamakura. There motsu is a new take on an old dish and only uses chicken bits. It is a bar, so no kiddos allowed inside. However, if you find yourself in an Izakaya, they will probably have a version of motsu too.
Hideyoshi Street View
So, toss aside your pretenses and try something gross--not only will you have a new cultural experience but you just might fall in love with it.

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