Recipe by Kanako Koizumi (www.kozmokitchen.com)
Serves 6 Prep time 20 minutes Cook Time 20 minutes
I grew up in a rural, mountainous area in northern Japan. In winter, gym class at my elementary school became downhill skiing practice. At the nearby ski area, we hiked up hills carrying our skis and skied down between poles, over and over. It was physically demanding, and I hated it. But there was a lunchtime treat I always looked forward to — a steaming bowl of Ton Jiru soup, provided to all of us to accompany our rice balls. The soup thawed me out instantly. And that feeling of warmth and comfort still makes me smile to this day.
Ton Jiru is a hearty miso soup of pork belly slices and vegetables. “Ton” means pork and is the key ingredient in this very satisfying dish, but flavorful root vegetables such as gobo (burdock root), satoimo (Japanese taro root), and carrots add natural sweetness and umami (savory taste) to the broth, as well as loads of dietary fiber. The vegetable ingredients are flexible, varying from region to region. For example, in my hometown, Akita, we add green cabbage and potatoes, which make the soup even sweeter, some people add crumbled firm tofu. Warm up your family on a chilly evening with your own batch of Ton Jiru!
- 10-12 oz. pork belly slices
- 5-6 oz. (about 20 inches long) gobo (burdock root), peeled
- 5-6 oz. carrot, peeled
- 5-6 oz daikon radish, peeled
- 6 satoimo (Japanese taro root), washed and peeled (or you can use Yukon Gold potatoes, if satoimo is unavailable)
- 1 package konnyaku (Japanese yam cake, available in the refrigerated section at Asian grocery stores)
- 6 cups water
- ½ of a 14-oz package firm tofu, crumbled (optional)
- 2-3 green onions, chopped
- 1 tbsp. canola or sesame oil
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin
- ¼-1/3 cup or more miso (any kind)
- Cut pork belly slices into an inch wide pieces.
- Thinly slice gobo diagonally. Cut carrot and daikon radish in quarters lengthwise then slice thinly crosswise.
- Cut satoimo in half lengthwise then slice thinly crosswise. Boil water in a small saucepan and blanch cut satoimo for about a minute, then drain and set aside. This reduces its slippery texture.
- Using the edge of a small spoon, cut konnyaku into irregularly-shaped 1-inch pieces. Boil water in a small saucepan, blanch konnyaku for 30 seconds, then drain and set aside. This removes its strong smell.
- In a deep soup pot, heat oil over high heat. Add pork and cook for about a minute until it is no longer pink. Add gobo, carrot, daikon, and konnyaku, and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add water, sake, and mirin. Bring to a boil, and add satoimo (and tofu if using). Cook for another five minutes.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and add ¼ cup miso, stirring to dissolve. Taste the soup and add more miso if you like. If the soup is too salty, add a little water.
- Serve, garnishing with green onion.
Kanako, a native of Akita, Japan, is a chef, author and instructor focused on authentic Japanese home cooking. She will be teaching Bento and Izakaya classes in June at Tom Douglas’ Hot Stove Society and ChefShop in Seattle. Chef Kanako also offers in-home private cooking classes for groups up to 12. You can reach her at email@example.com.
2017 November – Kanako’s cooking school information