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Literally meaning “one soup and one dish,” the 一汁一菜 ichiju issai principle of Japanese cuisine represents the most simple traditional Japanese home cooked meal consisting of rice, soup and one dish.
Created by Zen priests in the 12th century, the expression originally gained a negative connotation in general society, as a way of designating “a plain and ordinary meal.” However, in the last few decades, with obesity and other health concerns growing, it has gained a positive meaning as a culinary principle governing healthy eating in moderation.
That being said, with only a soup and one dish carrying most of the nutritional value of the meal, soups (usually miso soup or 豚汁 tonjiru pork and vegetable soup) are generally hearty with many ingredients inside.
Culinary expert Yoshiharu Doi’s miso soup
Culinary expert 土井善晴 Yoshiharu Doi is probably Japan’s most famous contemporary advocate of ichiju issai.
Doi often uploads photos of his miso soup on Twitter, which sometimes become topics of conversation. For example, some of his unusual miso soups have featured things like fried egg and fried tofu, sea lettuce, dried shrimp and Camembert cheesegrated Japanese yam, and Japanese angelica tree sprouts, koshiabura (Chengiopanax sciadophylloides) tree sprouts and young burdock root.
Earlier this month, Doi posted a photo of his dining table along with a tasty-looking bowl of miso soup filled with mushrooms.
However, instead of rice which is the traditional accompaniment to all Japanese meals, he was eating buttered bread. Indeed, ichiju issai says nothing about what carb you eat with your soup and side dish, so why not?
However, it’s the second photo that surprised many online…

He had soaked his buttered toast in his miso soup!
Most Japanese people have the preconceived notion that miso soup is always paired with rice. Doi’s creativity and willingness to think outside of the box while adhering to ichiju issai is what distinguishes him from his predecessors.
His surprising miso soup meal elicited a variety of comments, such as:
“The combination of miso soup and bread is already surprising, but soaking a piece of bread in miso soup is even more surprising!”
“That’s one way to do it! There are infinite possibilities in miso soup, aren’t there?”
“So that’s his move, is it? Mushroom miso soup with buttered toast soaked in… It looks great!”
“At our house, we make miso soup even on ‘bread days’, so I know how good it tastes!”
When you really think about it, maybe buttered bread in miso soup isn’t such an odd idea. If you’re a ramen buff, you may know that people in Hokkaido like to add a rich flavor to their miso ramen with a pat of butter, so the combination of miso and butter makes sense. Moreover, things like 油揚げ abura-age (deep fried tofu crusts) or 麩 fu (wheat gluten cakes), commonly added to miso soup, have a texture which is somewhat similar to bread.
The next time you make miso soup, why not give it a try, if you haven’t already. You may be pleasantly surprised.
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I also do this, and I notice it appears to be real bread in the picture rather than the margarine-and-sugar-filled impersonation widely available in the supermarkets.
My homemade whole wheat bread is very tasty. Maybe good to use bread instead of rice if time is short. We only eat rice once or twice per week. Somen is quick and fewer calories.
The bread looks very good, like the stuff from Le Pain Quotidien.
Can’t beat making your own, though.
Another foodie article that kinda shrieks with delight at the creativity required to come up with gastronomical gems like – Wow, bread and miso soup; Wow, mushrooms in miso soup; Wow, cheese and miso soup…..!!!
Food folks have been this and far more for yonks.
I never think of it as “creative”.
It’s called cooking.
I gave an American friend some miso years ago and he spread it sparingly on toast like Marmite or Vegemite, it was quite tasty that way.
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