Japanese Winter Series – #1 The staples

Japanese Winter Series – #1 The staples

by Maki Watson

Gohan (rice) and miso-shiru (miso soup) are the staple elements of Japanese dining. At meal time we serve gohan and miso-shiru along with ‘okazu’, or side dishes (we’ll be covering some winter-inspired okazu later in the series)! To tell you the truth, I enjoy making and eating gohan and miso-shiru often, however when I go back to Japan my mum’s miso soup really energises me. I feel all my cells remember my childhood and I’m held by my memories.

I will also introduce you to ‘umeboshi’, or preserved plum, which is an excellent condiment to accompany ‘gohan’.

Please enjoy this recipe series that was developed for our ‘Itadakimaaasu! Japanese Cooking Workshop’ that was held at the Co-op on 26th of July. Ingredients with an ‘*’ are available to purchase at The Food Co-op. All recipes quantities are for serving 2 people.

Gohan ご飯 – Rice

*White medium or short grain rice  – 1 cup

Water – 1 cup

  1. Rinse rice, cover with water in a bowl and leave for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Drain rice and put in a pot with fresh water.
  3. Turn on stove to medium heat. 
  4. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to the lowest setting for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn off the stove and leave it sitting for another 10 minutes. 


Miso is a superfood, whose base is fermented soy beans along with other grains such as rice and barley depending on the variety. It is rich in essential minerals and a good source of various vitamins and folic acid. As a fermented food, miso supports gut health that is linked to our overall mental and physical wellness.

Apart from miso, the other main ingredient in miso-shiru is ‘dashi’ or Japanese stock. Dashi is not only one of the base flavours in miso-shiru, it also forms the foundation to most okazu dishes!

Dashi-shiru だし汁 – Japanese stock

Dried shiitake mushrooms – 3
*Dried kombu (kelp) – 10 g

Water – 800 ml

  1. Cover the shiitake and kombu in the water and leave for 5 hours. 
  2. That’s it! Use the stock in many Japanese dishes.
  3. For a stronger flavour, you can heat and simmer the stock ingredients. 
  4. Don’t throw out the leftover shiitake and kombu! You can add them to other dishes, or see below for a common recipe called ‘tsukudani’.

Miso-shiru みそ汁 – Miso soup

Dashi-shiru – 2 cups
*Shiro (white)/ ’Original’ Miso – 3 Tbls
*Onion – 40 g
*Turnip/Daikon – 25 g
*Spring onion – 1

  1. Slice onions and turnip into long, thin pieces. 
  2. Cut spring onions into small round pieces.
  3. Heat dashi soup in a pot and add onion and turnip.
  4. Once veggies are cooked, turn off the heat. 
  5. Put miso paste in a large ladle and gradually add dashi into the ladle to dissolve miso completely before adding the concentrate to the pot.
  6. Reheat to serve without letting it get to a simmer-point. Garnish with spring onions.


Kombu to shiitake no tsukudani 昆布と椎茸の佃煮 – Simmered kelp and shiitake mushroom

After making dashi, we can use the leftover kombu and shiitake mushrooms! The kombu in particular contains lots of minerals. One way that I like to use them is to make ‘tsukudani’. You can use tsukudani made with kombu and shiitake in ‘onigiri’, or Japanese rice ball. Or simply eat with ‘gohan’ (rice), yum!

*Leftover kombu (kelp) & shiitake – approx 150g
*Shouyu/Tamari – 6 Tbls
*Rice vinegar – 3 Tbls
*Mirin – 2 Tbls
Sake – 2 Tbls
*Raw sugar – 1 Tbls

  1. Cut the kombu and shiitake chunky and put in the pot.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and simmer until the kombu and shiitake turn a bit slimy and the sauce has reduced.

Umeboshi 梅干し – Preserved plum

Umeboshi is another super food. It was first brought to Japan around 1500 years ago as a medicine and was used as a healthy tonic, food preservative, antibacterial aid, and as an energy enhancer for Samurai warriors during the war periods. 

The antibacterial properties work to strengthen your body’s resistance to cough, cold, flu, fever and a sore throat by destroying the bad bacteria before an infection can develop.

I had sneezing last night. I made a Umeboshi drink this morning. It worked. It’s simple. Put a piece of Umeboshi and a teaspoon of honey in a mug and pour hot water. Squash umeboshi and mix.

Umeboshi’s salty sour flavour is also DELICIOUS in ‘onigiri’, or eaten with rice as above. The Co-op stocks a very high quality umeboshi. Give them a try!