The East Asian Island, Japan, is not just a land of stunning natural landscape and strong cultural identity, but also the home to some delicious, sumptuous authentic Japanese soups.
Beguiling and unique, Japan’s food is notoriously nutritious, with a diet using super-fresh, seasonal fruits, spices, vegetables and stock. Soup is one of the vital components of a Japanese meal, and is customarily served along with rice and pickles after the main course.
The Japanese chefs have special regard for soup as they believe it involves a lot of technique to make a good soup and is one of the most difficult things to make. In Japan, an entire restaurant is graded based on the Soup they serve.
2) Greens and Veggies.
3) Taste Enhancer (radish, yuba, tofu, mushroom). Avoid using green vegetables.
4) A pleasant aroma emitter, such as leaves or yuzu (a type of citrus fruit).
Though with urbanisation and curiosity, soups are being cooked with western influence, here are 5 authentic, classic, old school Japanese signature soups.
Ton-jiru also known as Butajiru, is a classic, rich, winter hearty pork soup, which is mixed with vegetables in a delicious broth flavoured with miso and dashi. It is normally served with tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets). A favourite with meat-lovers, it is very famous all over Japan, as it is a quick and easy, versatile dish. Ton-jiru is known to be a very flexible dish as it mixes well with most of the vegetables. Normally, thin slices of pork are chopped and cooked with a lot of root vegetables, such as Gobo (burdoc root) and carrot, konnyaku and taro. Though, it is a form of Miso Soup, it tastes very different when compared to any Miso Soup. Ton-jir gets its distinct taste from the pork and Gobo root used in the soup.
The perfect soup on a cold and snowy winter is the Kenchinjiru. Based on a Buddhist vegetarian recipe, its name, Kenchinjiru is derived from the Zen Buddhist temple where it was first made, Kencho-ji, in the historical feudal town of Kamakura. Since kenchinjiru is a shojin ryouri or temple cuisine dish, it is originally a vegetarian soup. This classic Japanese soup is hearty yet low in calories, full of fiber, and very healthy for you and your family. It can either be made with miso, or with soy sauce and salt. While the root vegetables could vary, one key veggie to this soup is the burdock root or gobo, which gives the dish an earthy flavour. The shiitake mushrooms and the creamy sato-imo are also responsible for the dish’s rich flavour. This soup is more of a stew than a soup and can be considered a meal by itself. It is normally served with rice and pickle.
Matsutake Soup, also known as Suimono or Osuimono, is a classic Japanese Autumn soup with highly fragrant matsutake mushrooms in clear dashi broth. Suimono, meaning “things to sip”, is a clear soup which is served with the elegant Kaiseki meals, after the appetiser or Sashimi course and just before the entrée or at the end of a meal.
Suimono soup is exceedingly simple to make, but very hard to master. The flavors are so delicate and subtle that it is easy to go overboard with flavouring. The soup’s taste depends on the availability of fragrant herbs such as Mitsuba and the rind of citrus such as yuzu. But the most important ingredient is the Matsutake mushroom, an aromatic mushroom found near specific species of pine tree. It has a very distinct taste and smell. Lastly, presentation is also as important as the taste. Since the ingredients are few, they should be cut into beautiful shapes and served in covered lacquer bowls. The pleasure of enjoying suimono is in the fragrance that is emitted when the lid is lifted from the bowl.
Ozoni or Zoni is a special soup with Mochi (rice cake), which is eaten in the morning of New Year’s Day in Japan. The houses are normally decorated in Mochi, followed by a meal to celebrate the hope for a good year ahead. Ozoni differs from region to region, and household to household. Areas such as Tokyo and Osaka prefer clear fish broth (Kanto Style Ozoni) but Miso based soup (Kansai Style Ozoni) is eaten in Kyoto or Shikoku. The type of mochi used also varies, they maybe square baked, round fresh and soft, or Mochi stuffed with Anko (sweet red beans).
Vegetables and meats in Ozoni also vary depending on the region. However, typical ingredients are chicken, fish, shrimp, and Kamaboko (fish cake), dried shiitake, carrot, and winter vegetables like Daikon radish and carrots. Mitsuba, sometimes called Japanese parsley, adds colour and a refreshing flavour to Ozoni. Leafy vegetables, such as spinach and komatsuna can be used as well. Yuzu peel and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) are used on top to garnish the dish.
Miso soup is the main item in a Japanese breakfast and is usually eaten with rice, eggs, fish, and pickle. The soup can also be served for lunch or dinner with more complex garnishes. This quick and easy soup, is made from Miso paste (a traditional Japanese ingredient made from fermented soy beans) and Dashi, a basic stock (made with dried bonito flakes)
Miso is one of the most versatile soups which can be made with whatever seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, meat or seafood that is available. It can be as light as just few blocks of tofu and some chopped mitsuba to a heavy stew, as in kenchinjiru. The Soup can also be made with wither white miso or red miso or a combination of the two, which is known as awase miso.
Most common combinations used in Miso Soup include Tofu & Wakame, Carrots & Daikon, Potatoes & Onion, Nasu, Okra, Shimeji Mushroom, Enoki Mushroom and Asari Clam. This is not only ideal for children, but can also be substituted for toddler’s porridge.
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