Sake Kasu Zanmai: Chicken Turnips and Nanohana Kasujiru Soup

Late Winter Kasu Jiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana 小蕪菜の花鳥肉粕汁

Late Winter Kasujiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana  小蕪菜の花粕汁
Meet Kasu Jiru: Kasu-jiru is soup made with sake lees. The sake taste is pronounced and the sweet, fruiting bouquet of fermented sake mash is obvious as well. We made this with late winter veggies and chicken.

Winter Sake Soup
Kokabura turnips are in season through out the winter in Kyoto and nanohana (rape blossoms) signal the coming of spring. Winter is of course the time that sake is being made, so sake kasu is only available this time of year.

Late Winter Kasu Jiru: The Ingredients
Late Winter Kasujiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana  小蕪菜の花粕汁
From the left, kokakura (small turnip), nanohana (rape blossoms), sake kasu (sake lees) and chicken.

Kokabura is translated as ‘turnip’ in my dictionary, my experience with turnips are that they are rather dry and tough. These Japanese ‘kokabura‘ turnips are quite soft and juicy though and so much so that the first time we made this dish the inner part of the kokabura just melted with only the surface retaining its shape. This time we cooked them just 7 or 8 minutes. They were tender and intact, with some fresh veggie taste still in them.

The nanohana rape blossoms still had no yellow flowers on them, just buds. They just appeared in stores this week. They are tender and rather hefty and ‘meaty’ for greens and pleasantly bitter. These we cooked for just 3 minutes or so.

Kasu Jiru: Adding Kasu to Soup Broth
Late Winter Kasujiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana  小蕪菜の花粕汁

Our kasu jiru is very thick with plenty of kasu. We make a base dashi with three kinds of shaved fish (comes in a tea bag), some salt and mirin. We simmer the chicken well and then add the kokabura and kasu. With the kasu we sometimes add a little bit of miso paste, to deepen the flavor, but not enough to taste directly.

The key here is good, fresh ingredients and not too much cooking.

Kasu Jiru Served – detail
Late Winter Kasujiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana  小蕪菜の花粕汁

Kasu Jiru Served with Black Shichimi
Late Winter Kasujiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana  小蕪菜の花粕汁
Usually shichimi (seven spice) is red, but the best, in our opinion, is the more rare black shimichi.

Kasu Jiru Served with Black Shichimi – detail
Late Winter Kasujiru Soup with Chicken, Turnips and Nanohana  小蕪菜の花粕汁

My favorite thing about this wonderful dish is the taste and fragrance of the fermented sake mash. It is pronounced and unlike any soup or stew that I have ever had anywhere in the world. Maybe in the Western countries we can use beer or spirits mash in a similar way?

2 Responses to “Sake Kasu Zanmai: Chicken Turnips and Nanohana Kasujiru Soup”

  1. Mora says:

    You guys knocked it out of the park with this soup recipe. Another exquisite example of why Japanese cooking is the real soul food. I’d not heard of black shichimi. It’s on my shopping list for our upcoming trip to Kyoto later in the year. Now to find out when our local sake brewery will next make kasu available to the public.

  2. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Mora,

    Well, thank you!! Yes, soul food, Japanese style. Well put.

    My advice is to start a business distributing sake kasu in the US, people just need to hear about it! It is simple to use, yummy, readily available and not expensive. Just waiting for someone to popularize it. If I were not in Kyoto, I would do it!!

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