Chicken and Potato Soup

Satsuma-jiru

A rich, hearty soup thickened with dark bean paste, Satsuma-jiru was born out of an acquaintanceship with European stews dating from sometime around the seventeenth century. Both chicken and pork versions appear on menus in Japan today, though the former is more common, and I think tastier.

Served piping hot with rice and pickles or dark bread and a green salad, it’s wonderful on a cold and blustery day.

Ingredients

  • 2 small chicken breasts, with skin and bone
  • 1 tablespoon saké (rice wine)
  • 2–3 small sato imo (Japanese country potatoes)*
  • 2–3 inches daikon (Japanese white radish), about 4 ounces, or 2 small white turnips
  • 1 small carrot
  • ½ cake konnyaku (gelatinous cake made from a tuber vegetable)
  • 3½–4 cups water
  • tablespoons Sendai miso (dark bean paste)
  • ½ teaspoon mirin (syrupy rice wine)

Method

Cut each chicken breast into 4 pieces and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and pour the rice wine over the chicken and let it stand while preparing the vegetables.

Peel the potatoes and cut them obliquely into bite-size pieces. Soak in very salty cold water for at least 5 minutes, then rinse them under fresh cold water and drain.

Peel the radish and cut it into ½-inch-thick half moons, or peel the turnips and cut each into quarters. Peel the carrot and cut it obliquely into bite-size pieces.

Dice the konnyaku cake into 12–16 cubes and blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain well.

In a large pot, combine the chicken, potatoes, radish or turnips, carrot, konnyaku and enough water to cover all generously. Bring the water to a boil and skim the surface frequently for the first 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook the soup for 15 minutes. Measure out the bean paste into a separate bowl or pot and ladle some hot soup over it, stirring to dissolve. Add the dissolved bean paste to the big pot and continue to cook for 7–8 more minutes, but do not let it boil. Just before serving, stir in the syrupy rice wine.

* If you can’t find Japanese country potatoes, use new potatoes scraped but left whole.

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