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Ton Jiru: Classic Winter Miso Soup

Ton Jiru: Classic Winter Miso Soup

Tadasuke Tomita is the force behind Shiro Gohan, a Japanese-language website with a collection of traditional Japanese food recipes. This article shares Tomita-san's Ton Jiru recipe, a hearty miso soup with pork and root vegetables, along with tips and variations for this Japanese cooking winter classic. Read on to learn how to prepare this delicious and flavorful Ton Jiru soup at home!

Tadasuke Tomita is the force behind an incredible Japanese-language website called Shiro Gohan ("white rice"). A self-described food enthusiast and now cookbook author, he writes that he created the site "to help people recognize the deliciousness of washoku" (traditional Japanese food). Go, Tomita-san! His website has dozens and dozens of great recipes; I can't wait to get a hold of his book the next time I travel to Japan. I've been perusing Tomita-san's recipes lately with the help of a researcher. His recipes rock, and what I really like is that he gets into the "how and why" of the cuisine, helping us understand the thinking behind the cooking. I've now started to cook through some of his dishes. Here's an adaptation of his version of Ton Jiru, a hearty miso soup with pork and root vegetables, a Japanese cooking winter classic. I shared a Ton Jiru recipe from Chef Abe before, but this one is another variation. Both are great, take your pick! I'm listing the ingredients in metric and weight measurements (as I've urged before, every home cook needs a decent digital scale, which costs about $30 bucks, best kitchen investment you'll make). I'm also adding grated ginger to the recipe, which I think gives a nice flavor layer, especially with the pork. Finally, this is really country cooking, so don't sweat the quantities, you can add more or less of anything. Here's the recipe for 4 servings, let me know how it turns out:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
150g thinly sliced fresh pork belly, cut into bite-size pieces (find this at Asian markets)
80g daikon, cut into thin slices, then quarter the slices
1 medium carrot, cut into half moons
150 grams Japanese taro (sato imo), peeled and cut into quarters lengthwise
1/2 gobo root (burdock), scrubbed clean and cut sasagaki style (scroll down this website to see how)
3 cups dashi (700ml)
1 negi, cut into diagonal slices (if you can't get negi, substitute with 3 or 4 scallions)
4 tablespoons miso (I like Sendai or another red (aka) miso)

Add the vegetable oil to a saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pork. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes, until the pork cooks through. Add the daikon carrot, taro and gobo, and continue to stir and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to cook. Add the dashi. When the dashi begins boiling, remove any scum that appears on the surface. Add the negi and half of the miso (2 tablespoons). Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Turn off the heat, and use a strainer to dissolve the remaining miso (read this primer on miso soup for more details). Garnish with chopped scallions if you'd like, and serve.

A couple of notes: Miso is typically added at the final step of cooking miso soup, but here Tomita-san adds it in two parts, the first time to allow the miso flavor to penetrate the vegetables as they cook, and the second time, to flavor the soup as is typically done. Make sure you taste the soup when you add miso at the end. You may need to add more, depending on your preference, and the quantity of ingredients. Also, this is a soup not a stew, so you may need to add a little more liquid, if it seems a little stew-y. Adding a little dashi or even water will do the trick. I had to do this because I used more vegetables than called for in the recipe.