warmth of home – 豚汁 “tonjiru”

i didn’t have a good day at work. nothing serious, but it still made me down and took my energy away. the cool air outside with the smell of crisp brownish yellow leaves somehow reminded me of home, my parents home in the outskirts of tokyo where you can still find small vegetable fields beside a train track. all of a sudden i missed it so much. how comforting it was, despite occasional quarrels, disagreements and interferences, i was always protected, accepted and cared for.

i craved for something my mum had always cooked for us when we were little, my sister and i. once in a while from autumn to winter, she cooked a gigantic pot of 豚汁 (“tonjiru”, miso soup with pork), with a lot of vegetables and some pork meat. my mum grew up in the country side, in a mountain village, with 5 other siblings. the soup was perfect for a big family like that – it is very nutritious and easy to prepare, and most of all it tastes really good, containing the juicy essences from the vegetables inside. it’s basically an upgraded version of miso (soybean paste) soup, with lots and lots of root vegetables, tofu and thinly sliced pork pieces.

i actually never learned how to make it from my mum, nor have i got a recipe from her. after all it’s a very simple dish and how to make it is quite self-explanatory if you know how to make other miso soup, so i never bothered to ask her before. the funny thing is though, that the taste comes out to be exactly like hers.

豚汁 “tonjiru” (for 2)

1/6 of japanese radish (daikon) – “icho-giri”, triangle slices
1/3 of carrot – “icho-giri”, triangle slices
1/2 of gobo (burdock root) – “sasagaki”, thinly shaven
1 “naganegi” (leek), roughly sliced diagonally
1/2 of momen tofu (cotton tofu), broken into a mouthful size by hand
100g pork slices, cut into small pieces
1/2 tea spoon of dashi powder
1 liter of water
miso paste to taste (3 table spoons)

in a deep pot, put the water, the root vegetables and bring the water to boil. put naganegi and tofu, pork slices and dashi powder into the pot, again bring to boil. lower the heat, gently remove the layer of residue floating on the surface with a ladle, and simmer for 20 minutes or so. once the root vegetables become soft, put the miso paste in and have it melt by stirring, and simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes. adjust the amount of miso paste to your preference.

a bowl of tonjiru gave me an amazing level of security. it’s just miso soup but i felt at ease. i felt the warmth of home, deep inside my stomach.

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