Kenchin jiru is a traditional Japanese soup with an origin in Buddhist temples where monks sustain themselves with vegetarian meals. My mom used to make it vegetarian, too. However, I like to add a tiny bit of meat or chicken to add that satisfying savoriness to the soup. Kenchin jiru is easy to make with almost any root vegetables you happen to have. It doesn’t require a long list of esoteric sauces or spices, either: You just need soy sauce and salt. That’s it! You’ll be amazed how much complexity the vegetables and a teensy bit of meat or chicken can give to this comforting soup. In this regard, it’s very similar to the pork miso soup with root vegetables and shiitake mushroom that I posted recently: It’s a super-simple recipe with BIG flavors.
Kenchin jiru with a bowl of rice (and maybe a side of quick-pickled cucumbers) could be a perfectly satisfying, if humble, DASH diet meal for someone who likes Japanese home cooking. (Me and Hubby!) Other times, we treat kenchin jiru like a simpler miso soup, accompanying a spread of main dish like a broiled fish, rice and a couple of veggie-leaning sides. You can even have this hearty soup with a hunk of baguette–which we did the other day. I have to admit, I was surprised by how well this odd combo worked!
Other common ingredients in kenchin jiru includes daikon, lotus root, shiitake or enoki mushrooms, spinach and fried tofu. I’d have used daikon if I had one on hand. Alas, I was out of daikon, so the trusty turnip stepped up and filled in the gap. If you want to make the soup vegetarian and more traditional, omit the beef. In that case, I’d stir-fry the ingredients in a bit of sesame oil before adding water. The sesame oil adds the extra kick that a vegetarian version probably needs.
Kenchin Jiru: Japanese Tofu, Root Vegetables & Maitake Mushroom Soup
DASH diet considerations: Kenchin jiru is a wonderful addition to your DASH diet soup repertoire. It’s full of vegetables, plant-derived protein from tofu and only a tiny bit of meat, maybe ¼ serving per person. It’s also oil-free. Some recipes call for stir-frying the ingredients before simmering them in the soup, but this step really isn’t necessary, thanks to the surprisingly robust broth from the little it of beef.
Place the water, along with carrot, turnip, taro, maitake and gobo, in a pot. Bring to a boil on high.
Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium so it keeps boiling gently. Cook for 15-20 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked through.
Add the beef strips to the soup.
Add the soy sauce to the soup. Stir, taste, and add salt as needed.
Divide the soup into serving bowls and garnish with the sliced scallion.
*Gobo is a (somewhat absurdly) long, thin, fibrous root that is chock full of toasty, earthy flavor with a slight bit of sweetness that develops when cooked. Also called burdock root, you can find gobo in Japanese, Chinese and Korean grocers.
**I buy thinly sliced meats from a Korean or Japanese grocer. They are sliced almost paper-thin and high quality (i.e., a small amount lends a huge amount of flavor). If you don't have access to this kind of meat, a small amount of ground beef or chicken might work instead.
Just before Gothamist was shut down (boo!), I saw a post about a lunch spot in Downtown Brooklyn that serves something that had me drooling instantly: Grain bowls made with (very green) scallion rice. The author practically gushed over the scallion rice. I wanted to try it. Being me, I decided to try making it myself, without ever tasting the original. 😛
The original scallion rice was actually a scallion fried rice. However, I decided to make a non-fried version to cut down on the fat content. I was fairly certain that the fragrances of the scallion, ginger and a small dash of sesame oil would be enough to elevate a plain bowl of jasmine rice to a next level–and I was right!
I wanted a quick but well-balanced, DASH-compatible dinner with a couple of different flavors going on, so I went with a grain bowl format. Aside from the teriyaki chicken and roasted pumpkin, this easy bowl gets a bright vinegar boost from a quick and crunchy cucumber pickle, and toasty goodness from a (also quick) carrot salad with sesame seeds. Don’t be scared by the long-looking ingredient list. As long as you have roasted pumpkin ready to go, this teriyaki chicken bowl with scallion rice comes together in about 20 minutes. I say it’s a pretty good DASH diet dinner for weeknights!
Teriyaki Chicken Bowl with Scallion Rice & Roasted Pumpkin
DASH diet considerations: The teriyaki chicken bowl with scallion rice and roasted pumpkin is a quick one-bowl meal that's well balanced on both flavor and nutrition departments. Just a small drizzle of sesame oil in the scallion rice gives it a nice nutty fragrance without weighing it down. Teriyaki chicken is sweet and savory; the two salads bring brightness and crunch, and roasted pumpkin adds a starchy texture and natural sweetness.
Mix the soy sauce, honey, sake and garlic in a small bowl. Add the chicken thighs and let sit to marinate.
Cook the jasmine rice in a small pot.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the chicken pieces and cook, flipping occasionally to get a nice browning going. When the chicken is cooked through, pour the marinade into the skillet. Cook it down until it thickens and coats the chicken nicely. Transfer to a plate and keep in a warm place.
While the chicken cooks, sprinkle the cucumber and carrot with a small pinch of salt in separate bowls. Toss to combine and let sit for a few minutes. This will draw out the moisture from the veggies, preventing them from getting soggy later.
Squeeze out as much moisture as you can from the cucumber and carrot.
Add the sushi vinegar to the cucumber and toss to combine.
Add the sesame oil and sesame seeds to the carrot. Toss to combine.
When the rice is cooked, fluff, and mix in the ginger, scallion, sesame oil and a small pinch of salt.
Divide the scallion rice between two serving bowls. Arrange the teriyaki chicken, roasted pumpkin and two salads on top.
We sprinkled some shichimi, a Japanese spice mix, over top. The citrusy, fragrant spice mix adds another dimension to the teriyaki chicken bowl, but it’s not a necessity. Sambal oelek, sriracha or other spicy sauce might be a fun addition on the side, too.