Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recipie for a Chilly Day--Tonjiru

As soon as it cools off enough that hot soup would taste good for dinner, and you're in a mood to try something a little different (but not too different), Tonjiru is just the thing.  Put this somewhere where you'll see it and not forget (I forget everything unless it's right in front of my face).  A very easy-to-make soup, the first time I ever ate  Tonjiru was at my kids' elementary school at the Matsuri (festival) in November.  The sixth graders make it every year with sweet potatoes they've grown and harvested themselves.  There are a number of things you could put in it, but I make the simplest version for myself.

It consists, at the simplest, of five ingredients:

Pork, half a Daikon radish, an onion (or two), a carrot (or two), and miso (the brown stuff in the box).
Other people put in potatoes or sweet potato, or gobo, but I like the simple taste best.

1)  Brown the thin-sliced pork in a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of the stock pot
2)  Slice the onion (in half on the meridian, then in chunks) and throw that in.  When the onion looks pretty well heated,
3)  Throw in the peeled and cut up Daikon and carrot.  The Daikon can be cut into half-inch rounds, then the rounds cut in half or in quarters.  As you like.  Same for the carrot(s).  And if you have kiddies, here's what I used to do:

 The carrot is cut in quarter-inch thick coins.  Then get out the cute cutters, and cut a bunch of shapes for the little ones to discover in their soup:))

                                                  Kawaii, desho!  (Cute, isn't it!)
                                      I put in the shapes and the anti-shapes (mottainai!)

 ...and, of course, you can do the same with the Daikon with bigger size cutters.  I used Maple Leaf and Ginko Leaf since it's fall (I also have Flower and Cherry Blossom for spring--the Japanese are *way* into their seasons:))
               4) Throw it all in the pot with 6 or so cups  of water (to cover the vegetables and then some), and put the fire on medium.  After it comes to a boil, turn the fire down lower and once or twice skim the scum that rises to the surface:

I have a skimmer (? English word that I know of for this kitchen implement) to do this.  Chanto aku wo totte, ne!  (Get all that scum off!--that would be your Japanese grandma talking to you).  I never observed my mother doing this, but this step is in every soup-type recipe in Japan I have ever seen, and I always see this done on cooking shows (and my mother-in-law does it--so that clinches it, doesn't it!)

After the scum is skimmed, use your big ladle to get 3 to 4 tablespoons of miso (you can dissolve it half an half--two tablespoons at a time).  Submerge the ladle and use the big long O-hashi to dissolve the miso in the simmering water till it's all dissolved.  Put the lid on, and the fire down as low as it'll go and leave it simmering for a while.  An hour is plenty.  Stick your o-hashi into the middle of a piece of daikon to check.  If it goes right through and the daikon is nice and soft, it's done. 

And when everybody comes in--soup!  You can make rice to go with it, but it tastes just as good with nice fresh bread or rolls.  And it tastes even better the next day--for breakfast,even,  if there's been a cold snap during the night and you wake up to frost on the windows.  And for miserable sore-throat colds, nice salty miso soup is just the thing:)  

Hai, dozo!  Itadakima--su!


  1. *Open kitchen cupboards*

    *Close kitchen cupboards*

    *Ditto fridge*


    *Make cheese sandwich*

  2. Awww--now I want to come cook for you:)) I can say from personal experience that grocery shopping happens on a more regular basis when one has children than when one doesn't.

    Speaking of cheese sandwiches, go over in the blogs and click on Hyperbole and a Half and read the one about "How a Sandwich Makes You Its Bitch in 11 Steps".

  3. That.Is.Simply.Brilliant. And you asked how *I* find stuff?

    The only problem with looking at old blog posts is resisting the urge to look really sad by commenting months, or years, after the fact.

    Offers of cooking are never turned down! Though it wasn't that bad really. There was salad and pickle in my sandwich too, and ginger cake to follow.

  4. Hyperbole and a Half is brilliant--Jerry Coyne linked to one of her comics, I think. It has the joyful lunacy of The Far Side, the likes of which I never thought to see again. And her site has 26 thousand some odd followers in about a year and a half. Personal favorites: Why I Will Never Be An Adult; The Alot; and Spaghatta Nahdle (especially #6:))

  5. Loquat is for cough and lung in Chinese medicine. Sometimes i would take the Ninjiom Pei Pa Koa which is an extract of loquat when got sore throat.

    You can access info online @

  6. @Katherine--let's see...loquat is Biwa, right? Yup, just checked. That one, the Japanese name comes to mind first, and I have to translate backwards. Our Ojiisan (grandpa) sometimes brings us Biwa (loquat), although he told me not to let the kids eat too much of it, lest it give them the runs...:))

    The Japanese and the Chinese eat such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, I always wonder why Americans and Europeans don't try more of them. The Gobo that I mentioned in the post, for example, which you *can* put into Tonjiru (but I tend not to--I use it in other stuff), is really good for your stomach. Udon with Gobo is the *best* when you have an upset tummy. At least, it always makes me feel better:))

  7. We learned about bentos in class today and our sensei made us make one out of cut out paper. It was fun--but i couldn't tell what half of the stuff was and gave them the wrong colors. Haha. I made the tempura red, and the tamayaki orange. :)

    Thanks for answering my question about the classes.

    There are actually a lot of Japanese schools here in Boston, where I live, that are open to the community. I plan on visiting one soon. :]

  8. Hi Ezmirelda! You're welcome--ask away! I was going to post something about obento next week. I'll put it up over the weekend if I can get it done faster:)) Tamagoyaki is my daughter's *favorite*!