Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pork in Miso Soup

Miso soup is an inevitable side dish for Japanese cuisine.  Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning and all-rounder.  It is used not only to make soups but also give UMAMI to cooking.  You may think it strange, but I sometimes add miso when I am making Frensh bechamel sauce to make it milder.

Miso soup made with this all-round seasoning can therefore harmonise with almost any ingredients we add; vegetables, meat, fish, tofu, noodles, etc.,etc.  We have hundreds of different types of miso soups in Japan.

Among those various miso soups, one cooked with pork is speciallly called Buta Jiru or Ton Jiru (Buta/Ton both mean pork in Japanese, and Jiru is a voiced consonant form of Shiru which means soup).  This Western broth-alike soup is very delicious and one of everyone's favourite winter dishes.

Buta Jiru can be served as a side dish, but also became a beautiful main dish if you serve in a larger soup bowl together with a bowl of warm rice.

Ingredients for 4 people as side/2 people as main dish
Salad oil to fry
1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
1 knob fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
5oz thin sliced belly pork cut into 1.5 inch width (bacon is not suitable for this dish!)
3 cups fish stock*
1 small potato peeled, cut into 1/10 inch thick slices, soaked in water for a few minutes and drained
4 oz daikon (about 1 inch long of large daikon) peeled and cut into 1/10 inch thick slices
2 oz carrot (3 inches of medium sized carrot) peeled and cut into 1/10 inch thick circles
5 oz firm tofu (1/3 of a block of tofu) cut into a half inch cubes
3 oz miso (brown)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
MSG to taste (optional)
1 bunch (3.5 oz) of enoki mushroom
4 tablespoons chopped green onion
Shichimi to taste (optional)

*fish stock: Add about 4 cups of water in a pan and bring to a boil.  Add one handful (about 1oz) of fish flakes to the pan.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat.  Stand for a few minutes until the flakes sink.  Sieve using a good quality kitchen paper.  Fish flakes are available at Japanese food stores.

Alternatively, you can use granulated fish stock which is also available at Japanese food stores.  Make 3 cups of stock following the directions on the package.

If, however, you can not get either fish flakes or granulated stock, simply use 3 cups of water.  Do not attempt to use Western fish broth which should not be substituted for this dish.

Heat salad oil in a deep pan and cook the garlic and ginger for 1 minute until they become fragrant.   Then, add the pork and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the meat is no longer red.

Pour the fish stock into the pan and bring to a boil.

Add the potato, daikon and carrot.  Cover the lid and simmer for 7-8 minutes until the vegetables are soft (but not crushed!).

Add the tofu and cook (covered) for further 3 minutes.

Add the miso to the pan.  If you have a miso strainer or equally small strainer, add the miso in it and whisk with chopsticks or a spoon until it is dissolved.  Otherwise, put miso in a cup and add a ladle or two of liquid from the pan, whisk and dissolve, then add to the pan.

Add the enoki mushrooms and bring to a boil.  Season with the soy sauce and MSG (if you are using), then immediately remove from the heat.  Remember do not cook for too long after you add the miso, or it loses its flavour.

Serve hot in miso soup cups (if serving as a side dish, or use soup bowls if serving as the main course). Garnish with some green onion and sprinkle Shichimi pepper if you like.  Shichimi pepper is nowadays often found at Oriental food corner of your local supermarkets.

Bon appetit!

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