Literally meaning “a soup and a dish”, the 一汁一菜 ichiju issai The principle of Japanese cuisine represents the simplest traditional Japanese meal consisting of rice, soup and a dish.
Created by Zen priests in the 12th century, the phrase originally acquired a negative connotation in society at large, as a way of referring to “a simple and ordinary meal”. However, in recent decades, with the rise in obesity and other health problems, it has gained positive significance as a culinary principle governing healthy eating in moderation.
That being said, with only one soup and one dish carrying the bulk of the meal’s nutritional value, soups (usually miso soup or 豚汁 tonjiru pork and vegetable soup) are usually hearty with many ingredients inside.
Miso soup from culinary expert Yoshiharu Doi
Culinary expert 土井善晴 Yoshiharu Doi is probably Japan’s most famous contemporary advocate ichiju issai.
Doi often uploads photos of her miso soup to Twitter, which sometimes become conversation starters. For example, some of his unusual miso soups featured things like fried egg and fried tofu, sea lettuce, dried shrimp and camembert, grated japanese yamand Japanese angelica tree sprouts, koshiabura (Chengiopanax sciadophylloides) tree shoots and young burdock root.
Earlier this month, Doi posted a photo of her dining table with a tasty bowl of miso soup filled with mushrooms.
However, instead of rice, which is the traditional accompaniment to all Japanese dishes, he ate buttered bread. In effect, ichiju issai doesn’t say anything about the carbs you eat with your soup and side dish, so why not?
However, it was the second photo that surprised many internet users…
He had dipped his buttered toast in his miso soup!
Most Japanese people have the preconceived idea that miso soup always comes with rice. Doi’s creativity and willingness to think outside the box while respecting ichiju issai this is what distinguishes it from its predecessors.
His surprising miso soup meal drew a variety of comments, such as:
“The combination of miso soup and bread is already surprising, but dipping a piece of bread in miso soup is even more surprising!”
“It’s a way! There are endless possibilities in miso soup, aren’t there?”
“So that’s her shot, right? Miso mushroom soup with buttered toast dipped in it…Sounds great!”
“At our house, we make miso soup even on ‘bread days’, so I know how good it is!”
When you really think about it, maybe buttered bread in miso soup isn’t such a strange idea. If you’re a ramen buff, you might know that Hokkaido people like to add a rich flavor to their miso ramen with a dab of butter, so the combination of miso and butter makes sense. Also, things like 油揚げ abura-age (fried tofu crusts) or 麩 you (wheat gluten cakes), commonly added to miso soup, have a texture somewhat similar to bread.
Next time you’re making miso soup, why not give it a try, if you haven’t already. You might be pleasantly surprised.
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