Writer: Tamaki Kashiwagi
We, the Japanese, have rich and diverse food cultures because the territory of Japan extends long distance from the north to south, and the climates vary quite a lot from one region to the other. We have the variety of local ingredients and foods that are specific to each climate and location.
Today, I would like to introduce one of the local foods in the south-west of Japan, called “Hiya-jiru”. This is the food of Miyazaki Prefecture located at Kyushu Island. Hiya-jiru literally means “cold soup”. However, this is not soup but a kind of rice dish, which is wicked good!
Those who have been to Japan may know that the Japanese love miso soup and rice so much. Hiya-jiru is a bowl of rice, poured with cold miso soup and topped with tofu and vegetables. Originally, it was a delicacy of local farmers in Miyazaki, who wanted to eat quickly in busy farming seasons. In this column, I introduced the types of “Donburi” that have become popular among the working class. The rice and toppings are served in one in a Donburi so that we can finish the meal quickly. Hiya-jiru went even further, and the rice, toppings and even soup are all together to make it super quick. What a busy and workaholic group of people the farmers in Miyazaki were!
Another unique feature of Hiya-jiru is that it is a cold dish, mixed with cold miso soup. Habitually, the Japanese enjoy a bowl of warm miso soup with freshly cooked white rice. But we tend to lose our appetite during summer under the heat and want to eat cold food on a hot day. So Hiya-jiru with cold miso soup is good to stimulate the appetite during the summer.
This local food has become popular not only in Miyazaki but also other parts of Japan today, just like the “Taco rice” of Okinawa, which I introduced the other week. Initially, the concept of “cold miso soup” was strange to many Japanese because the soup is usually served warm. But it has been accepted by many Japanese because it is so good! You should definitely try it!
Use canned tuna and blenders for easy cooking!!
Traditionally for making Hiya-jiru, you need to grind Tofu, grilled fish, miso and cold water using a mortar and pestel called “Suribachi” and “Surikogi” in Japanese. But nowadays, a lot of younger Japanese don’t even have them. I guess a lot of you don’t have tem either. So let’s use a blender. You may think that grilling fish is another headache because it takes time and will produce a lot of smoke, smell and mess at the grill. But you can use canned tuna instead. I recommend you to use canned tuna in soup, not in oil. You mix all the ingredients in the blender and pour it over a bowl of rice. Add sliced cucumbers and white sesame seeds on top as garnish.
It should be noted that Hiya-jiru offers you a balanced nutrition, containing both animal and vegetable protein, carbohydrates, vegetable fibers, minerals and vitamin in one bowl. In the oriental medicine, cucumbers are used for cooling down our bodies and calm down the hypertension. During the old days when there was no air conditioner, our ancestors had survived the hot summer by eating cold Hiya-jiru with cucumbers. I cannot help thinking of the greatness of their wisdom.
Hiyajiru Ingredients (SERVES:2)
Steamed rice 300g
Canned tuna 1
White sesame seeds(roasted) 1tbs