While miso soup is popular worldwide, tonjiru is an equally popular soup within Japan. Similar to miso soup but packed with hearty vegetables and thinly-sliced pork, tonjiru is a staple of home-style cooking known asofukuro no aji, or “Mom's taste”. Tonjiru is often served as part of teishoku, a style of set meal made up of many small dishes.
Alongside common ingredients like daikon (radish) and carrot, tonjiru also contains a few ingredients that may be unfamiliar to those living outside Japan such as konnyaku and gobo (burdock root).
Konnyaku is a jelly-like food made from potatoes. Well-known for being fiber-rich and extremely low-calorie, konnyaku is a popular health food in Japan. Similar to tofu, konnyaku is quite bland on its own, but quickly absorbs flavors. To remove konnyaku’s earthy odor, boil it in salt water for five minutes before using it.
Gobo is a sweet and mild root vegetable that is popular in Japanese cuisine. Its texture resembles that of a carrot, but its taste has been compared to an artichoke. Gobo has many applications and is commonly used in sushi, soups, and a variety of side dishes.
To make tonjiru, start by pan-frying thinly-sliced pork belly until golden brown. Then, add in the soup ingredients and steam them in dashi until tender. Next, add in the remaining dashi stock and half of the miso paste and bring to a boil. Once the root vegetables are soft enough to pierce with a fork, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining miso. Garnish with green onions and shichimi togarashi (Japanese chili flakes).
Complete with protein and plenty of veggies, tonjiru can be enjoyed as a filling side dish or as a balanced meal in and of itself!
- 100g pork belly (cut into 3cm pieces)
- ¼ tbsp sesame oil
- 100g daikon (cut into chunks)
- 25g carrot (~¼ stick) (cut into chunks)
- ¼ stick gobo (burdock) (cut into thin strips and soaked in water)
- ¼ piece konnyaku (boiled in salt water for 5 mins then cut into small pieces)
- 500ml katsuobushi dashi
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp miso
- Pinch of ginger (grated)
- Chopped negi (green onion) (garnish)
- Dash of shichimi togarashi
- Fry the pork belly in a pan with the heated sesame oil. Add the radish, carrot, gobo and konnyaku.
- Add 100ml of katsuobushi dashi with a pinch of salt, cover and steam for 10 mins.
- Add the remaining 400ml of katsuobushi dashi and 1 tbsp of miso. Bring to a boil, while thoroughly skimming off the scum. Reduce to low heat and add the remaining 1 tbsp of miso and ginger to taste. Make sure not to boil.
- Garnish with negi and shichimi togarashi.
Note: Normally you wouldn’t add miso and then bring the soup to a boil as this would lessen the taste. However, for pork miso soup, you can add miso and simmer the soup to enhance the flavor of the vegetables. Just be sure to simmer the soup on low heat without bringing it to a boil.
Introduction courtesy of Britney Budiman
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.