The first time I tried traditional Japanese clear soup was also on the first date I had with my husband at a hibachi steakhouse. While I’ve yet to have a chance to visit Japan, this simple soup holds a special place in my heart.
Be sure to try this vegetarian ramen recipe, too!
What is Traditional Japanese Clear Soup?
I admit, when the waiter at the Japanese restaurant we’d chosen put the bowl of this simple soup in front of me, I wasn’t impressed. It looked like…clear broth. I sampled it, not sure what to expect, and was surprised at the depth of flavor. It was the perfect way to start our meal.
Common at hibachi restaurants or teppanyaki establishments, this Japanese clear onion soup is usually served as a starter before the main course.
If you’d like to try a little taste of Japan without hopping on a plane, this recipe is an easy place to start!
Chicken broth: This is the base of the soup, so start with a delicious broth. Prefer a beef broth? That would work, too, though it will be a bit stronger than the chicken stock. If you are vegetarian, you could certainly replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth, but it wouldn’t exactly be a traditional Japanese clear soup.
Onions: You’ll use several types of onions for this recipe. For making the broth, use any kind of bulb sweet onion you have on hand — white, yellow, or red. Once ready to serve, you’ll sprinkle chopped green onion or scallions on the strained broth. If you want to try a different type of onion, spring onions would be a good alternative.
Carrots: Chop carrots into chunks (for the large carrot option) or if you have baby carrots, you can put them in the broth whole.
Ginger: Choose fresh knobs of ginger and peel if desired, though it’s not necessary. If you opt not to peel, just be sure you wash them well. [Read about ginger vs. ginger powder.]
Garlic: Peel whole garlic cloves. Use small cloves whole; slice larger ones. Either way, you’ll have delicious garlic flavor in this Japanese onion soup!
Mushrooms: This recipe calls for button mushrooms, which you’ll add to the broth after it’s strained. Could you use shiitake mushrooms? Sure you could.
Making the Soup
You’ll start by sautéing the onion, carrots, ginger, and garlic in a large saucepan or stock pot. Once seared and beginning to caramelize, you’ll add the meat stock and simmer for an hour or so.
Strain the solids to create a clear broth.
Serving this Healthy Soup
Spoon broth into serving bowls and top with sliced mushrooms and green onions. Serve this flavorful soup with soy sauce and sesame oil on the side for people who want to add a little something else.
Divide between four bowls as a starter before the rest of the meal, or two bowls for a light meals. (Nutritional information is based on four bowls.)
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 4 whole scallions, sliced
- 10 button mushrooms, sliced thinly
- salt to taste
- Heat a large pot over medium high heat; add oil.
- Place the onion, carrots, and ginger in the stock pot. Sear the veggies on all sides to caramelize.
- Add garlic and cook just until it begins to brown.
- Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover pot, and simmer for one hour.
- Pour broth through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the solids; reserve for another use. Taste the broth and salt as needed.
- To serve: Divide hot broth between four individual bowls and top with fresh sliced scallions and sliced mushrooms.
For a vegetarian diet, use vegetable stock to replace the chicken broth.
Choose fresh knobs of ginger and peel if desired, though it's not necessary.
Opt for a neutral flavored oil, like avocado or sunflower oil.
Serve this soup with soy sauce and sesame oil on the side as a simple, light meal or a first course.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1-1/2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 100Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 1555mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 4g