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Thursday 15 April 2010

Tonjiru Soup – Hearty Japanese Miso Soup with Pork Belly and Root Vegetables

Tonjiru - A Hearty Japanese Soup

This is a delicious Japanese soup and a favourite at our home. It can be made in 30 minutes and is great as a starter or as an accompaniment to an informal Japanese meal.

It is much more interesting than a simple miso soup, and is robust and wholesome. This is one of my favourite soups.


• 300g thinly sliced pork belly (same used for sukiyaki or Korean hot pots) *
• 1 large carrot cut into bite size pieces (can be substituted with pumpkin or sweet potato)
• 3-inch piece of daikon (Japanese white radish) cut into bite size pieces
• 5 cups of dashi stock (240ml per cup or 1.2 litres in total) **
• 2-3 tbsp brown miso paste ***
• 2 tbsp finely sliced spring onions
• 100g of fermented Sake Lees (Sake Kasu) – sold frozen in Japanese food shops ****


1. Cut the pork belly into 1 cm-wide slices.

2. Prepare the dashi – if using hon-dashi stock granules, dissolve 2-5 tsps in the 1.2 litres of boiling water in a medium pan (big enough to accommodate all other ingredients!).

3. Add the daikon pieces (Japanese white radish) to the dashi stock and cook for about 15 minutes in a medium-low heat. Add the carrot and pork belly slices to the pan, and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the scum (if any) from the surface from time to time.

4. Melt the frozen fermented sake (sake kasu), and brown miso into the pan and mix well until dissolved. Check for seasoning.

5. Pour into individual Japanese soup bowls and sprinkle chopped spring onions on top before serving.

6. Enjoy!


* The thinly sliced pork belly can be found in most Japanese or Korean supermarkets (Japan Centre, Arigato in Brewer Street, Fuji Foods, Atariya). They come already sliced, frozen in polystyrene trays, and cost around £2.50 for 300g.

** I find that “Hon-Dashi” in sachets works just as well as the predominant flavours in this soup are of miso and pork belly, and the delicacy of homemade stock would be lost here. I also find that a combination of 20% kombu dashi (made from kelp) and 80% katsuo dashi (made from bonito flakes) will result in a more flavoursome stock. If in doubt, use katsuo dashi sachets which are widely known and are found in all Japanese food shops.

*** Different types of miso paste (red, brown or white) and even different brands will have different levels of salt. I recommend melting a couple of tablespoons into the soup, and check for saltiness. If you are doubling the quantity of soup, doubling the amount of miso paste might make the soup a litte salty, so use it sparingly and add more only if required.

**** Sake Lees (Sake Kasu) can be found in most Japanese food shops’ freezer cabinets. It adds a delicious flavour as well as richness and creaminess to the soup, so I would highly recommend using it. Most recipes for Tonjiru will not call for this ingredient, but once you try it, you will be hooked!


  1. This looks healthy! Great tips on where to get some of the ingredients, in particular the different types of dashi.

  2. yes - thanks for the tips - have got to try this one xxx

  3. This looks amazing - going on the must-make list asap.

  4. Yet another reason to get the pork belly on this weekend - so I can make this afterwards! Great ingredients sourcing info too :-)

  5. @ Mr Noodles - this soup is a crowd pleaser, thanks for the comment.

    @ Fernandez & Leluu - let me know when you would like to try and I will make it for you!

    @ Lizzie - this is a real compliment coming from you Lizzie, thanks!

    @ Gail - hello darling, some of the Vietnamese shops on Kingsland Road also sell the sliced pork belly (i saw in that little supermarket by Song Que), and it saves me the trip all the way to Fuji Foods in Muswell Hill. Thanks for the RT btw.

  6. Who can resist a well done pork belly? Mmm.. devoured quite a lot of that during the winter months. Just dunk sliced pork belly into boiling hot soup for a couple of seconds and they are good to go.

    A quick question. Have always wondered whether miso (or wei zheng) is actually MSG. Any idea?

  7. Hi London Chow, pork is by far my favourite meat and belly my favourite cut! Can't get enough of the stuff.

    Miso is fermented soy bean paste. It has a lot of flavour and I wouldn't be surprised if some brands actually have MSG in them (as you know MSG is widely used in Asia including Japan). MSG comes in small crystals similar to granulated sugar while miso is a paste and is brownish in colour, so they are not the same.

  8. This looks great - properly nourishing, and i've never come across Sake Lees so it'll be a new taste experience for me. Great recipe.

  9. Thanks Aaron, this is a robust soup packed with flavour, and is one of favourites. I only learnt about Sake Lees from Reiko of Hashi Cooking. I remember when I tried it at her home during one of our cooking classes because it took me right back to my childhood, to my grandmother's cooking. Despite knowing that flavour so well, I had long forgotten it.


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