Dating back to the Japanese middle ages,this delicious Japanese vegan soup is said to have originated into the first Zen Buddhist temple of Kencho-ji. Made with a vegan dashi stock, root and fresh traditional Japanese vegetables, tofu and konnyaku, this variation is finished with red miso. Kenchin-jiru is a very nutritious yet low calorie hearty soup/stew that is irresistibly delicious.
Cathy's Kitchen Prescription
Kenchin-jiru with Miso
A Glorious, Hearty, Vegan Japanese Soup (oil-free)
Presoak 8 hours Prep time 1 hour Cooking time 30 minutes
Of all the many marvelous soups we've made, this is my husband Giordano's favorite! Warming, savory, satisfying, it is chock full of traditional Japanese root and green veggies in a simple vegan dashi broth. Loaded with antioxidants and fiber, kenchin-jiru is a nutritional powerhouse and quite filling but very low in calories thanks partly to konnyaku, sometimes erroneously referred to as yam cake, which has nothing to do with yams but is derived from a corm that produces a dense gelatinous ingredient loaded with fiber our gut microbes adore. It adds density, texture and character to the soup, with virtually no calories. Some versions finish the soup with salt and extra soy sauce; this variation relies instead on red miso, a delicious probiotic.
Vegan dashi broth
1 4”x4” piece of dried kombu seaweed
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 taro (satoimo), peeled, halved lengthwise, sliced in ¼” slices, and place in water to prevent browning
1 8” daikon radish, halved lengthwise, sliced in ¼” slices
1 juicing carrot (or 2 regular), halved lengthwise, sliced in ¼” slices
½ burdock root (gobo), peeled, cut in slivers or shavings, place in water to prevent browning
1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
1 block firm tofu
1 block white or gray konnyaku (konjac)
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, quartered
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (optional)
2-3 Japanese green onion (negi) or 1 bunch scallion, greens and whites sliced
2 tablespoons fermented soy sauce
1/3 to ½ cup red miso
freshly toasted sesame seeds
shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice seasoning)
Vegan dashi broth
In separate glass or ceramic bowls soak kombu and dried shiitake in 6 cups of water each. Cover with wrap and refrigerate overnight. Discard kombu, discard shiitake stems , quarter caps and reserve, strain stocks and combine. This is our dashi stock.
Dry sauté sesame sees in a skillet until fragrant a lightly toasted. Set aside.
Drain tofu, wrap in paper towels, weigh with a dinner plate to express excess moisture for 1 hour. Tear into bite-sized pieces.
Rinse konnyaku well, boil for 3-4 minutes in water, drain. Tear into bite-sized pieces.
Parboil taro for 5 minutes, skim as needed.
In a large pot bring the dashi broth to a low simmer.
In a stainless or nonstick skillet, dry sauté onion over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add fresh shiitake and shiitake from the dashi, carrot, daikon, burdock and taro, and sauté 3 minutes. Add konnyaku, tofu and salt. Cook until veggies are not quite soft. Do not overcook.
Add sauteéd veggies to the dashi. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until veggies are tender. Stir in green onion/scallion and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the soy sauce.
If you are serving the entire soup at a sitting, place miso in a large ladle. Submerse ladle partially into the pot and with chopsticks or a spoon, dissolve the miso in the ladle's hot soup. Add it to the pot, stirring gently to disperse it throughout. Miso is a live, probiotic food that will not survive reheating. If you don't plan to serve the entire pot, remove the portion of soup for your meal and adjust the quantity of miso according.
Correct seasoning, adding a little more miso or soy sauce, if desired. Serve immediately in large heated bowls. Garnish with sesame seeds, shichimi togarashi and sansho pepper. Enjoy!
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