Ichijuu Sansai

As a New Yorker, I love the convenience of delivery, but sometimes when I get home from work…

I’m just too hungry to wait. So, before attacking the box of chocolate-covered marshmallows, I take a minute to reference the Japanese principle of ichijuu sansai: one soup, three sides (plus rice). None of the components need to be complicated, and the result can be a delightful alternative to a one-pot meal. Classically, the foods chosen would reflect the season and incorporate different colors and cooking methods. It is a thoughtful collection that ensures a satisfying, nutritionally balanced meal.

Ichijuu Sansai

Instagram has stunning examples of ichijuu sansai, including this one by saori_moon.

Here’s how I frequently execute the ichijuu-sansai concept:

Soup: I love my mom’s Sweet Potato Miso, recipe below, but you can simmer almost any vegetable in water with kombu (dried kelp), then season the soup with miso; I make a large batch to stretch out over multiple meals
— Eggs. For me, it’s either tamagoyaki (rolled omelet) or a quick scramble seasoned with nothing more than sake, salt, and sugar
— Something Pickled. This part is easy — a quick cucumber pickle or a little pile of store-bought kimchi
— Vegetables. You can blanch spinach or other vegetables ahead of time, and dried seaweed is an instant vegetable
Rice: I have a Zojirushi rice maker and always make extra

Michiko Tomioka’s Sweet Potato Miso Soup
Miso soup can be a major part of a meal, not just a thin soup. With this recipe, my mom’s, you can enjoy the full rainbow of vegetables, protein, and pro and prebiotics. It’s simple and economical and can be made in advance for busy weeknights. Recipe by Michiko Tomioka. Makes 6 servings.

4 cups water
3-by-3 inch piece Kombu, cleaned (optional)
3 to 4 pieces dried shiitake (optional)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 medium red potato, unpeeled, ¼-inch dice
½ medium sweet potato, unpeeled, ¼-inch dice
½ medium carrot, small dice
3 tablespoons miso paste (preferably white)
8 ounces firm tofu, ½-inch dice
1 tablespoon wakame (dried seaweed)
scallions, thinly chopped, for serving (optional)

Place water, kombu, shiitake, onion, potato, and carrot in a medium soup pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and continue simmering for about 10 minutes until all vegetables are tender. Taste one to make sure.

In a small bowl, combine the miso paste and ½ cup warm soup from the pot and mix until the miso paste is completely dissolved.

Add tofu and wakame into the soup pot and simmer for about 3 minutes over medium heat. Stir in miso mixture at the end just until incorporated. Serve soup bowls, garnished with scallions.

Chihiro Tomioka has written about Japanese food and culture for Bon Appétit, Saveur and Food52. Sign up for her newsletter, if you’d like.

P.S. Salad for dinner and 10 surprising things about raising kids in Japan.

(Photo by Saori via instagram.)