Temple Food II: Zohsui (Japanese rice soup)

ojiya.jpg

Continuing on the theme of temple food - simple, easy to digest food that is gentle on the stomach and the soul - here is zohsui, or ojiya. Where I grew up, we called it ojiya, which is considered a more vulgar term. Whatever you call it, it's essentially a soup made of rice, various aromatic vegetables, egg, and sometimes some seafood or chicken. It's closely related to Chinese congee.

With simple dishes like this it's very easy to screw things up so that it just looked like a messy attempt to foist leftovers on your unsuspecting family. Done right though it's delicious, warming and looks good too. And, unless you are on a low-carb diet, it fits well into a "temple" regimen. You can omit or add anything you like - omit the eggs, or the seafood, and add more vegetables, whatever. It's up to your imagination.

You can use leftover rice for this, but it does taste better made with freshly cooked rice.

Zohsui, Japanese rice soup

  • 1 cup of Japonica type rice (see Looking at different types of rice
  • 7 cups of dashi soup stock, or chicken stock (you can use cubes or granules for either)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach leaves, washed (you can substitute other greens, such as bok choy leaves, Swiss chard leaves, etc.)
  • 1 cup of crabmeat, or cut-up chicken breast, or imitation crabsticks (optional)
  • 1 handful of flatleaf parsley leaves, or chervil, or (if you can get it) mitsuba (a kind of Japanese herb), or fresh coriander (Note: coriander would make this taste very not-Japanese, but that's ok. Mitsuba would be the most Japanese-tasting but is hard to get unless you grow your own.)
  • Salt, white pepper, soy sauce

Wash the rice following the instructions for plain rice. Put the rice in the stock, heat up and then cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender.

In the meantime, blanch the greens in a pot of boiling water. (Blanching means to cook for a few seconds in the boiling water.)

Add the seafood or chicken to the rice soup, and stir until just cooked through. Add the blanched greens.

Whisk the eggs into the soup, stirring all the time. The eggs should form into sort of soft strings throughout the soup.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and soy sauce. You may wish to add some Japanese chili powder (Ichimi tohgarashi, or Shichimi tohgarashi - look for these at Japanese food stores).

Garnish with the herb leaves. Serve piping hot.

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