Missing Miso

Long time, no soup. It was a busy work week and I wasn’t up to eating much. But soup (?) is back today with a vengeance because it is truly an autumnal day and I decided to make some butajiru.

Butajiru translates as pork soup, but that is not a good description. It’s a mix of autumn veggies with a bit of pork. It can sit on the stove all day cooking slowly. It has a miso broth, but somehow it isn’t called miso soup. I learned to make this in Japan at my daughter’s after-school care facility. Kid from ages 6 thru 9 were eligible for this public care if both parents were working. It was between two elementary schools, and at 5 pm or so the children all walked home by themselves, usually in groups. My daughter was just six years old but lived the furthest from the center so she walked the last block alone in the dark that winter. These kids were definitely not coddled.

One evening there was a planning meeting for parents. Parents came directly to the center after work, and the kids stayed on. Everyone would have dinner together, and that’s where I first encountered this soup. Someone started it, someone added to it, someone would taste it and adjust, and as parents trickled in, they’d ladle out a helping for themselves. Normally miso gets added last because we’re told it loses its flavor if it boils. But for butajiru it is okay to add miso part of the way through and cook the veggies in the miso broth. At the end you can add a bit more.

Today’s miso soup: I was short on ingredients, but it had the requisite pork, thick deep fried tofu, Japanese sweet potato, carrots, and shiitake. Later on this year I will make it again and add leeks, daikon and burdock root.

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