Soups are an integral part of many Japanese meals, and while the most commonly known soup is the standard but delicious miso soup, there’s more than just one way to prepare a miso-based soup… Today we’ll be looking at a soup inspired by the anime Nagi no Asukara: tonjiru!
Tonjiru is a robust soup that is really a meal unto itself. It contains a wide variety of vegetables and proteins, boosting the flavor and heartiness of the dish, practically elevating it to main dish status. In Nagi no Asukara, Manaka makes tonjiru with a mix of pork and fish in a symbolic gesture towards the positive cooperation between the land and sea peoples…
About the recipe:
Tonjiru isn’t too hard to make, though it does require plenty of cutting, as well as a host of ingredients that might not be easy to find. That said, if you’re looking for a rather different take on a traditional miso soup, tonjiru is a great dish to try!
Here are a few tips:
Quickly pre-cook the pork slices in boiling water: this step will ensure that the pork does not get overcooked and tough (compared to if you cooked the meat directly in the soup), and will help prevent some of the fat from the meat from being in your soup.
Remove any foam or scum that rises to the surface of the soup with a spoon: removing the foam that naturally forms in the initial cooking phase helps to create a cleaner taste for your tonjiru. Remove these impurities by using a spoon or a small, flat strainer. Rinse your utensil in a bowl of water to dislodge and wash away the scum you pick up.
About the ingredients:
Taro is a small root vegetable that has a brown, and slightly furry exterior (I say furry, but it’s really just fine roots!) and a white interior. They are similar to potatoes, and produce a white, sticky substance when you cut into them. I’ve seen taro occasionally sold at grocery stores such as Whole Foods, so it is quite possible to find them outside of Asian stores…. Peel before cooking. Substitute with potato.
Burdock root is a very long, slender, and nutritious root vegetable that is high in many vitamins. The outside is brownish, while the inside is off white. It’s available in many grocery stores, such as Whole Foods and your local Asian grocery store. In this recipe, it gives the soup a very distinctive taste. Since the root is left unpeeled in this dish, make sure to scrub it well with a vegetable brush before using.
Enoki mushrooms can be found in most Asian grocery stores, usually in small packages. These white mushrooms have a long, thin stem and a small cap, and are typically clumped together at the bottom of their stems. To use, simply cut off the dried bottoms and then separate the mushrooms into more manageable clumps.
Thinly sliced pork is used in this recipe to give the soup body and texture, adding an additional source of protein to the entire dish. I generally use thinly sliced pork belly (basically what you use to make bacon), which I cut into smaller pieces… but you can really use any pork cut that has some fat in it. Don’t use anything too lean, or it may be a little tough when you cook it.
Konnyaku is a hard, jelly-like product made from devil’s tongue yam (also called konjac yam or elephant yam). It comes in the shape of a dark, rectangular block. Konnyaku doesn’t taste like much on its own, but will take on the flavour of whatever sauce or soup it is placed into. It also has an interesting texture. In this recipe, the konnyaku is torn into smaller pieces using a spoon or a shot glass. The irregular shapes that result allow the flavors of the soup to better permeate the konnyaku. Before using in a recipe, boil for a few minutes to get rid of its smell. Konnyaku can be bought in most Asian stores.
Makes 4 servings
- 2 1/2 cups dashi stock
- 3 taro roots
- 3 inches daikon
- 6 inches burdock root
- 1/2 large carrot
- 1/3 block konnyaku
- 1 Japanese green onion (or 3 regular green onions)
- 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 1/4 bunch enoki mushrooms
- 1/3 block tofu
- 100 g thinly sliced pork
- 2 – 3 tbsp miso, to taste
1. Prepare your ingredients in the following manner:
Taro: Peel, cut into half lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Daikon: Peel, cut into quarters lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Burdock root: Scrub with a vegetable brush under cold water. Using a knife, shave the burdock into thin, 1 inch long pieces, similar to the way one might sharpen a pencil with a knife. Soak in cold water until ready to use. Drain before adding to the soup.
Carrot: Peel, rinse, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Konnyaku: Remove from its package and drain off any liquid. Using a spoon or a shot glass, roughly tear the konnyaku into irregular-shaped 1 inch pieces.
Green onion: White parts cut at a diagonal into 1/2 inch pieces, green parts finely diced. Place into separate bowls and set aside.
Shiitake mushrooms: Wipe clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. Make 2 shallow incisions in an X shape at the center of the mushroom cap and, using your hands, tear into quarters.
Enoki mushrooms: Cut off the dried portions and separate into several small clumps.
Tofu: Drain of any liquid and cut into 1 inch cubes.
2. In a large pot set over medium heat, bring the dashi stock to a boil. Add taro, daikon, burdock root, and carrot to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until all the ingredients are cooked through and soft, about 8 – 10 minutes. If any foam rises to the surface, remove with a spoon.
3. While the vegetables are simmering, bring 2 pots of water to boil.
Into one pot of boiling water, add sliced pork and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until no longer red, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the water, drain, and set aside.
Into the other pot of boiling water, add konnyaku and boil for 1 – 2 minutes to remove the distinctive konnyaku smell. Remove from water, drain, and set aside.
4. When the vegetables are cooked through and soft, add the konnyaku, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, white parts of the green onion, and tofu to the pot. Simmer for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked.
5. Gently dissolve miso paste, one tablespoon at a time, into the soup. Add the green parts of the green onion and the cooked sliced pork. Bring back to a low simmer and remove from heat.
Serve as a side or with a bowl of rice for a full meal.