Grilled as you like it

Soup for a rainy day May 18, 2008

Tonjiru – pork and miso soup | Kyoto Bean Soup

In April we had warmer weather and lots of lovely flowers. Of course, we also had plenty of cold, rainy days in April too. It seemed as though the chilly, grey clouds would roll in and hang around for a week at a time, alternating between drizzly, rainy, and threatening. After that, we would get a few days of sunshine (along with terrible humidity) before the next storm came along. Of course, it has been nice most of this week, so I can’t complain too much.

On those grey and rainy days, I found myself thinking of hot, hearty soups to warm myself up. These miso-thickened soups were just the ticket. One difference between my usual soup-making method and a miso-flavored broth is that you have to have a very light hand with the salt. While making my normal soups, I season liberally with salt as soon as I start to saute the carrots, celery, and onions; if I did that for these soups, however, the finished soup would be much too salty. Instead, the seasoning is finished at the end with miso and a small amount of shoyu.

The tonjiru (pork soup) is from Washoku. I follow the recipe pretty closely, adding ingredients here and there to use up tidbits in my fridge. It makes a hearty addition to a meal, thought I don’t think it is quite filling enough to be a main course. I did mix a bowl of leftover rice into my tonjiru the other day for a fairly filling lunch, however. I like to make this soup whenever I find some thinly sliced pork on sale at the market. The secret is to use a cut that is not too lean; very lean meat will tend to dry out and become tough in the soup. I also really love the daikon in the soup. I usually use about twice as much as the recipe calls for.

The Kyoto bean soup is from Japanese Light by Kimiko Barber. I am not sure if I’ve seen rutabagas at all at my local market, and certainly hadn’t on the day I made the soup, so I left them out, but added some potato and a bit of udo that had been in my fridge for too long instead. I also used a regular Gunma cabbage instead of the Chinese cabbage called for in the recipe, and used a yellow onion instead of the red onion since red onions aren’t available at most stores here. Finally, I topped the soup with both sliced green onions and mitsuba leaves. The soup was pretty tasty, but I had to add some extra soy sauce to get the flavor right. I think next time I will try to season it with more miso instead. I am also hoping to try making the soup with thin strips of abura age tofu instead of bacon for a vegetarian variation.

Miso-Thickened Pork and Vegetable Soup
from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh, copyright 2005

1 Japanese leek or small western leek, about 3 ounces
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 ounces boneless pork from loin or shoulder, cut into small, thin strips
1 small carrot, about 3 ounces, peeled and cut into julienne
1-inch chunk daikon, about 2 ounces, peeled and cut into julienne
5 to 6 inches burdock root, about 3 ounces, skin scraped off with the back of a knife and cut on the diagonal into thin slices
pinch of salt
splash of sake
2 quarts water
about 12 square inches of kombu
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 block firm tofu, about 14 ounces, drained and pressed, then cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small bunch mitsuba, trimmed, stems cut into short pieces, and leaves chopped
3 tablespoons mugi miso
3 tablespoons sweet, light miso, preferably Saikyo miso

Trim away the hairy root and any tough green top of the leek and then cut in half lengthwise. Rinse under cold water to remove any grit or soil. Place the cut edges down on a cutting board and slice on the diagonal into thin strips. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a deep pot over high heat. Stir-fry the pork for 1 minute, or until it begins to color. Then add the leek, carrot, daikon, and burdock root and continue to stir-fry over high heat for 1 minute. Add the salt and sake and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the burdock root emits a woodsy aroma. Add the water and kombu. When the soup begins to boil, skim away any froth and reduce the heat to maintain a steady but not vigorous simmer. Continue to cook, skimming away froth as needed, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender and the pork is thoroughly cooked. Remove and discard the kombu. Season with the soy sauce. Add the tofu to the soup and simmer for 1 minute to heat it through.

Divide the mitsuba evenly among individual soup bowls.

Just before serving, place the miso in a miso koshi and stir directly into the soup. Or place the miso in a bowl, ladle some of the hot stock from the pot, stir to mix it, and add to the pot.

Ladle the soup into bowls. The brief exposure to hot soup is sufficient to cook the mitsuba. Serve immediately.

Kyoto Bean Soup
from Japanese Light by Kimiko Barber, copyright 2006

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
4-6 pieces thick-sliced unsmoked bacon
1 carrot, coarsely chopped into chunks
4 ounces burdock, peeled, chopped, soak in water
4 cups Chinese cabbage, coarsely chopped
4 med rutabagas, peeled, cut in bite-size chunks
4 3/4 cup dashi
4 tablespoons sake
3-4 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 cup cannellini beans, drained
2 tablespoon medium colored miso paste
salt to taste
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat and saute the onion until softened but not browned. Add the bacon and cook for 5 minutes before adding the carrot, burdock, cabbage, and rutabagas. Saute until soft. Pour in the dashi broth and season with sake and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that floats to the surface. Reduce the heat to low/moderate and add the beans. Let simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the miso paste gently and adjust the seasoning with salt. Ladle into warmed soup bowls. Garnish with the chopped scallions and sesame seeds and serve.


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