As we dive deeper into colder days the winter micro season on the 7th of December with Sora samuku fuyu to naru meaning “cold sets in winter begins” starts. This is a time to start thinking of cosy home cooked meals with seasonal ingredients to feed the soul and warm the body.
Have you heard of a dish called Senbei-Jiru? It’s a country-style rice cracker stew sometimes known as wafer soup, from the northern prefecture of Aomori in the city of Hachinohe.
This dish dating back to the Edo period uses something called Nambu-senbei crackers. They are made from wheat and salt and are formed into thin round shapes before toasting.
They can be eaten on their own or as a snack or in this case they are dropped into a soup before serving. The soup varies but always has seasonal vegetables and mushrooms in either a soy sauce or miso broth. The wafers absorb the flavour and when In the soup take on a dumpling like texture. This is how the soup known as “Suiton” evolved from this to Senbei-Jiru, as the crackers can be stored dry for a long time. Suiton is a soup commonly known as Hitsumi is an earthy vegetable soup with dumplings made from rice or wheat flour sometimes known as Hatto-Jiru or Dango-Jiru.
I decided to make one base miso vegetable soup and try it three ways.
The soup can be any seasonal vegetables with a kombu dashi, like potato, daikon,carrot and kabocha then mushrooms I used shiitake. The soup normally has some meat so I used strips of aburaage instead ( deep fried tofu ) I love this in broth as it soaks up all the lovely flavours. I then added some miso. I used a combination of organic Japanese brown rice miso and white miso paste by Clearspring.
For the Suiton you need dumplings 1/2 cup of all purpose flour mixed with 1/4 cup of water and a little salt. Mix into a dough and form into balls. Drop the balls into the cooked soup when they float to the top they are ready. Serve with some chopped green onions or chopped greens like komatsuna.
I was lucky enough to be sent some nambu-senbei from Japan so in my second dish I added these just before serving.
However like many of you who can’t get the authentic thing why not just try using wheat crackers the type you would use for cheese. I tried these ones.
The second part of the winter micro season starts on the 12th of December and is Kuma ana ni komoru meaning bears start hibernating in their dens. Maybe that’s something we also do in away. We stay inside on cold dark days. It’s a time to cosy up under a blanket or in Japan something called a kotatsu which is a low level table draped with a thick blanket with a heater underneath. The perfect place to eat your nourishing soup which ever way you choose to prepare it.