Temple Garden Soup

Umpen-Jiru

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

To Americans it may seem odd that elegant cuisine is served at places intended for religious worship, but in Japan the very finest vegetarian food may be found at any number of Buddhist temples that house restaurants within the temple grounds, and some manage restaurants outside the religious precincts as well. Some of these restaurants serve only at midday, while others serve an evening meal in addition.

It was at Muryoan, a Tokyo restaurant affiliated with the Ōbakuzan School of Buddhism, whose main Japanese branch is located in Kyoto, that I first sampled this thick, gingery vegetable soup. The version I present here takes advantage of the recent and increasing availability in the United States of fresh shiitaké mushrooms.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces canned bamboo shoots, drained
  • ½ small carrot, about ounces
  • 2 ounces fresh shiitaké (dark oak mushrooms)
  • 1 small white turnip, about 3 ounces
  • ounces fresh snow peas
  • cups dashi (basic sea stock)
  • 1–1 ½ tablespoons usukuchi shōyu (light soy sauce)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • scant 1 tablespoon ginger juice (extracted from freshly grated ginger)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cold water

Method

Cut the bamboo shoots in very thin (1/16-inch) vertical slices, and if necessary remove any white calcified areas from the “teeth” of the combshaped pieces. Peel the carrot and slice it into paper-thin rounds. Or, if you have a decorative flower-shaped cutter, stamp out the rounds to look like flowers.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and save them for use in enriching stock or discard. Wipe the caps with a damp cloth to remove any dust or soil. Slice the caps into thin julienne strips.

Peel the turnip and slice it into paper-thin rounds. If the diameter exceeds inches, first cut the turnip in half through the stem, and then cut the halves across into paper-thin half-moon slices.

Snap off the stem end of each snow pea and pull back along the straight side to remove the string. Slice each pod in half sharply on the diagonal.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil. First blanch the bamboo shoots for 10–15 seconds, removing them promptly with a slotted spoon. Set aside. In the same boiling water blanch the carrot and turnip for 5–10 seconds and remove them, too, with a slotted spoon, then set aside. Last, remove the saucepan from the heat and toss the snow peas into the hot water. Stir once and immediately drain the snow peas, then refresh them under cold running water. Drain and pat dry before setting aside.

In a 2- or 3-quart saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer, then season with the light soy sauce, salt, and rice wine. Add the bamboo shoots and cook over a low flame for 2–3 minutes. Add the mushroom slices and continue to cook for 1 minute. Skim the broth, if necessary. Add the carrot and turnip slices and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the ginger juice.

Mix the cornstarch and cold water in a small cup to make a smooth paste. Add this to the soup, stirring well. Raise the heat to allow the soup to bubble and thicken. Toss the blanched snow peas into the soup, stir, and serve immediately.