Clear & Miso-Enriched
Tōfu and Vegetable Chowders

 KENCHIN-JIRU is the name given to a wide variety of meal-in-a-bowl chowders. What all have in common is the inclusion of at least one kind of tōfu and several kinds of vegetables... and the absence of any animal-based foods. Typically the broth is extracted from kombu (kelp) alone, or in combination with dried shiitaké mushrooms. Kenchin-jiru is a mainstay of Japanese temple-vegetarian cookery.

It is likely that kenchin-jiru evolved as an adaptation of a Chinese Buddhist vegetarian stir-fry named 巻繊 pronounced ケンチャン  or "kenchan." The biggest difference is that the original Chinese dish used lots of oil to stir-fry vegetables and tōfu adding broth at the end, while the Japanese simmer their vegetables in broth... and often (but not always) enrich the soup with miso.


Many kinds of TŌFU

Smooth and custard-like, KINU-GOSHI TŌFU (top row, below) is often served chilled with condiments, but also finds its way into soups. Firm and meaty MOMEN-DŌFU (2nd row, below) is perfect in soups, stews, and stir-fries. YAKI-DŌFU (3rd row, below) is momen that has been grilled. Delightful when slathered with miso and broiled dengaku-style, its firm texture is wonderful addition to soups and nabé casseroles. USU AGÉ (thin slices of fried tōfu; bottom row, below) are sold with oily still clinging and should be briefly blanched to remove the excess grease.

Many kinds of VEGETABLES

Pictured below, top to bottom & left to right:

SATO IMO (country potato) see Workshop # 15 for more information.
KABU (turnips) scrub or peel, then slice (they cook quickly so thicker slices).
Dried SHIITA mushrooms are softened in water (to which kombu has been added) to create stock. The caps are then sliced and added to the soup.
CARROTS add color and nutrients as do LEEKS (white and green portions), DAIKON, fresh mushrooms (SHIMÉJI are being trimmed below) and GOBŌ (burdock root), scraped and sliced on the diagonal.


Dishes in the featured menu can be found in my cookbook, KANSHA: Celebrating Japan's Vegan & Vegetarian Traditions (Ten Speed Press, 2010). They are referenced here by page number. Click on the recipe titles above to download photo-illustrated documents that provide information not included in the book  -- details about ingredients, tools & techniques, menu planning and/or final presentation.

I welcome your feedback -- especially captioned photos with a brief description of your kitchen sessions when you try making the recipes above. Those interested in offering feedback, please download a set of guidelines for submitting and displaying your work.To further teaching goals, I may post some of the feedback to this site, adding my commentary.

Every 6 to 7 weeks, I will post a new lesson to this KANSHAWorkshop page
To be notified immediately of Kansha Archive updates, Subscribe to our RSS feed