Kanako's Kitchen

Kenchin-jiru: Pork, Tofu, Carrots and Daikon

Posted in main dish, Recipe, today's meal by Kanako Noda on October 10, 2009

kenchin-jiruWestern people tend to think of tofu as an alternative to meat, but in Japan lots of dishes put the two together.

My mom’s version of Kenchin-jiru is one of them, a warming dish for cold winter days you can make in about half an hour to 40 minutes. It brings together Tofu, pork, carrots and Japanese radish (daikon) into a lovely, savory-sweet main dish.

Looking around online, it seems there are many different versions of Kenchin-jiru out there – and the original version was a vegetarian soup! My mom’s version was neither vegetarian nor soup – but it is delicious!

The secret to great kenchin-jiru is simple: very fresh Japanese radish. Make sure your daikon is super-fresh, and this dish will turn out great.

Kenchinjiru ingredients


Ingredients (for two)

Half a carrot
Half a daikon (must be very fresh!)
250 grams of soft tofu
100 grams of pork
Soy Sauce – 1.5 to two table-spoons (to taste)
Dashi – one tea-spoon


There’s a lot of chopping in this recipe. Take the time to learn to chop these vegetables properly.

  1. Cut carrot in 10 cm. long chunks
  2. Slice each carrot chunk vertically, quite thinly
  3. Slice the slices again, until you end up with thin little strips
  4. Slice the pork as thin as you can
  5. Slice daikon in 10 cm. long chunks
  6. Peel the chunks
  7. Cut the chunks vertically into four slices
  8. Slice vertical slices again into little strips (1 cm. or so)

cut carrot cut carrot2 sliced pork
Peel daikon chunk cut daikon carrot daikon

click to enlarge


  1. Heat mid-sized pot, then add a good quantity of oil
  2. Stir fry the pork together with the daikon for 2 minutes, until pork changes color
  3. Add carrots, cook for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring now and again
  4. When pork is cooked is all the way through, add one tea-spoon of dashi, and 1.5 table-spoons of soy sauce
  5. Stir well and set on low heat, and cover
  6. Cook, covered, for another 10 minutes until daikon becomes fully translucent: stirring now and again
  7. Check for saltiness: if needed, add a little bit more soy sauce (remember, tofu is bland: at this stage, the dish should be quite salty)
  8. Add in tofu, mix in, and cook for 5 minutes more

Heat mid-sized pot, then add a good quantity of oil Stir fry the pork together with the daikon daikon pork carrot
kenchinjiru1 kenchinjiru2 Add in tofu
kenchinjiru3 kinchinjiru finish

click to enlarge

Kenchinjiru is real Japanese comfort food: the kind of thing you want on a cold winter night to warm you from the inside out. Serve as main in 1-soup 1-dish.

For today’s dinner we had Kenchin-jiru, egg soup, and white rice with flavored Nori.


dinner 10 oct.


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2 Responses

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  1. Blue said, on February 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Kenchin-jiru is only vegetable soup – when you add pork, it becomes Ton-jiru. Kenchin-jiru is sort of a staple for Zen Buddhists; and they wouldn’t touch pork.

    • kanako said, on April 5, 2011 at 8:16 am

      Hi Blue,

      I bet you are right – but I think it’s a regional thing, plus I’m sure the recipe changes from family to family.

      This is just the kind of dish no two moms make the same way. And, to tell you the truth, I’ve never had Kenchin-jiru outside my house!

      As I think about it, though, my mom’s version was not really standard. Here’s a dish called “kanchin-JIRU” – Jiru means a soup in Japanese – and my (mom’s) recipe isn’t even a soup.

      This is why I say my blog is about “home cooking”: all I can really teach is what I learned from home and not “international Japanese cooking” – Japanese restaurant abroad cooking – which doesn’t quite exist in Japan.

      You made me wonder if adding pork to kenchin-jiru is maybe my mom’s own “innovation”, so I did a bit of research online in Japanese. Turns out that a lot of people add pork to kenchinjiru in Japan, even if it was originally a staple for Zen Buddhists.

      But I’ve had several of these kinds of misunderstandings with readers already. I think a lot of it is regional. My family is from Kyushu and I grew up in Kansai, near Kyoto. So all the recipes and taste will be more South Western Japanese. And, personally, I don’t like at all the “Tokyo taste” – too much Soy Sauce!

      But I think we have very different ideas about “Ton-Jiru”. That dish (also known as “Buta-jiru”) is different (even if it seems so similar) – it refers to miso soup with pork and vegetables. I even put up a recipe for it: http://kanakoskitchen.com/2009/11/08/butajiru-hearty-miso-soup-flavored-with-pork/. Again, I guess some families in some parts of Japan also put miso in Kenchinjiru (see, it’s confusing!) but my mom’s version was definitely without miso.

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