Japanese hospitality has developed a global reputation for exceptional service. Dining at a restaurant in Japan is a wonderful experience because of the sincerity, grace and respect of the chef and the wait staff. The Japanese are raised to be respectful and attentive, and this attention to detail and respect is how Japan has perfected hospitality culture. The employees are so attuned to your every need and come across as genuinely interested in you. The chef wants you to enjoy his food and your gastronomical experience, so attention to detail is reflected in the quality of the food as well as the service. One of the most popular dishes in Japan is a home-style dish called Kenchinjiru.
This traditional hearty Japanese soup is similar to a winter stew. Historically, Kenchinjiru was considered a traditional Buddhist temple cuisine because the name Kenchin was derived from the Zen Buddhist temple named Kencho-ji in the historical feudal town of Kamakura. Jiru translates to soup in Japanese; hence the name, Kenchinjiru. It is a light soup with stir-fried and stewed chunky vegetables.
Most Japanese recipes require a fish-based stock, but this soup uses kombu and shiitake mushrooms for flavor. Traditionally the soup is made with soy sauce, but if you prefer a bolder flavor, you can use miso. Typical ingredients include a wide variety of root vegetables. You can purchase traditional Japanese vegetables in Asian markets. Gobo and daikon add flavor and texture to the soup. Gobo has an earthy flavor and is a key ingredient in the soup. This classic soup is a favorite of all Japanese families and as a result, there are many different versions of the recipe.
• 1 block (10oz) of firm tofu
• 1 small block (6oz) of konnyaku
• 3 medium carrots
• 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, or 6-8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
• 1 small gobo root
• 6oz of daikon radish
• 1 sheet of dashi kombu or 8 cups of dashi stock
• 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
• 2 tbsp. of soy sauce
• 1 1/3 tsp. of salt
• 1 tbsp. mirin
Boil 4 cups of water with dashi kombu and shitake mushrooms for 5 minutes, or add the mushrooms to the dashi stock. Remove the kombu and shiitake mushrooms and continue to simmer the broth. Drain the tofu for 10 minutes, and then crush it using your hands. Set it aside for later. Peel and thinly slice the carrots, daikon and gobo. Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms and konnyaku.
Pour the vegetable oil into a heavy-duty preheated pot and cook the carrots, daikon, gobo, shiitake and konnyaku on a high heat for 3 minutes. Pour the dashi broth into the pot with the sautéed vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the crushed tofu and boil for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, salt and mirin and simmer for 3 minutes. Serve in individual bowls.
Kenchinjiru can be seasoned with soy sauce, or be served as a miso soup. Typically, it has been a vegetarian soup, but including chicken or pork in the recipe has become popular. Whichever recipe you sample while dining out will be prepared and served with exceptional Japanese hospitality.