surprisingly delicious collagen chicken hotpot (or is it chicken collagen hotpot?), also known as hakata mizutaki, at this little place along bukit timah. I admit to
ALOT a healthy amount of skepticism before coming to this place – I don’t like thick soups, the texture or excessive flavor of fat, and the whole idea of collagen as a age-defying beautificant (literary license) is a pretty strange notion (like, do you just grow so fat you don’t get wrinkles?
and, well, it tastes (and is) a fantastically long-brewed chicken broth, although definitely a little too unctuous and viscous for me. but the chicken that comes out the pot is beautifully tender and flavorful, as are the vegetables that cook in the same.
but they don’t just do a collagen hotpot – you get things like okonomiyaki and oden, the latter possibly my favorite dish ever.
it’s good to start the meal with a small bowl of salad, served here on tender green leaves and grated radish with a tangy dressing that opens the appetite, as the chinese say.
then you start slow and easy with your first soupy course of meal – a delicately-brothed dish of beautiful tofu and fishcake pieces simmered alongside eggs and tender radish. there’s nothing quite like a good bowl of oden to me – it’s like the homeliest, most comforting dish you would want in winter – and they do a refined version here.
very, very nice. watch out for that mustard dabbed on the edge of the bowl, though – it packs a serious punch that can go quite unexpectedly quickly up your nose.
and if you’re into heartier, rib-sticking dishes, you’ll want to do an order of the okonomiyaki and gyoza. I’m not one for gyoza – I like my dumplings packed tight with filling and boiled while gyoza tend to be a little too light on the meat – but the ones here do come with an intact lace crust, which is always impressive.
the okonomiyaki is much more my thing – a very hearty and filling pancake of cabbage and pork slices in batter, topped with an egg and lots of mayo and sauce. the sweet-savory-tangy-salty flavors are very moreish – but don’t forget that it is quite calorifically-dense (although you don’t get excessive greasiness here).
but the star of the show is clearly the mizutaki, boiled more than 6 hours to achieve a viscous, pale broth that tastes both delicately and intensely of chicken (I couldn’t handle more than a sip of the broth on its own though – that whole collagen thing takes a little getting used to). it comes with vegetables on the side, and your server does all the cooking and plating – fortuitously so, as the chicken pieces are perfectly cooked till tender.
it’s a curious dish, both light and clean in flavor but so intensely flavored from that long cooking – and the yuzu pepper and ponzu sauce served alongside both perks up the flavors and brings greater interest to the dish (otherwise, it’s merely chicken soup, if a very good one).
they’ll also dip rounds of minced chicken into the soup to form loose meatballs, and finish the hotpot off by cooking rice and egg into porridge. undeniably healthful, and really a nice way to round off the experience.
we finished the meal with a karintou manjyu, a fresh-fried bun stuffed with chunky red bean paste. DO NOT PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH ALL AT ONCE (I’m not saying that I did or did not) as it’s mouth-burningly hot, but it’s also pretty darn delicious (I may be biased toward all sweet bean preparations).
come here for a bit of soup and more amidst all the rain we’ve been getting – and sit amongst the japanese expatriates enjoying their post-work relaxation.
#01-14/16 557 Bukit Timah Road
tel +65 6465 5908
$$.5: 35ish onward
thanks to lester and torikin for the meal!