Feb 3, 2015

Raining Day Remedy - Homemade Pork and Onion Meatballs with Japanese Style Soup Base

Just thinking this simple soup/nabe recipe using Japanese kombu and katsuoboshi works well on such a chilly, windy, raining day. It warms you up from the inside out. (Background music: Lisa Ono, Moon River, acoustic version)



  • 1 big strip of kombu
  • 2 small packets of katsuoboshi/bonito flakes
  • 1 medium/large pot of water


  • 2 squared of fried tofu (fried outer layer with soft tofu inside)
  • 2 big pieces of fresh wood ear
  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1/2 small napa cabbage (the round kind if available)
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (maybe a little more to adjust the taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper powder


Prepare a medium large pot filled with water. Turn to medium low heat. Gently wipe the dried kombu then add into the pot, use a scissor and cut into smaller pieces if needed. Be careful do not let the water reaches boiling temperature. 

See if you have something like a filter bag or Chinese ball shaped wires, something that you can put the smaller ingredients inside so they won't flow all over the pot. I use that to keep things together such as star anise, bay leaves, peppercorns, and herbs when making a stew. If you have one, put the bonito flakes in then add to the pot, cook for another 20 minutes then remove the flakes from the dashi. 

If you don't have such handy gadget, just carefully drain the whole thing and pour the clear dashi to another pot. Keep the kombu inside the stock and store in the fridge overnight. Later on you can remove the kombu, maybe slice them into thin strips and season with some chili oil, soy sauce, granulated sugar, black vinegar, and sesame oil to make a simple side dish. 

For the meatballs, use a big container and mix together the ground pork, salt, white pepper, and finely chopped onion. Form the mixture into medium sized balls by shaping them in your hand first then throwing the patty back and forth between palms in order to draw out the air inside, also helps in holding up the shape. Makes about 7 to 8.

Chop the napa cabbage into large bite size pieces. Bring a pot of water to a boil then toss in the cabbage. Bring to a boil again, drain well and set aside for later use. Cut and discard the tough center of the wood ear. Slice the remaining wood ear into bite size pieces. Carefully cut the tofu into smaller squares. 

Scoop some prepared dashi into the serving pot and turn to medium heat. Add in the meatballs, wood ear pieces, and grated ginger. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to keep the stock simmering, cook for 1 hour. 

Add in the cabbage and tofu. Bring to a boil then lower the heat again, cook till cabbage softens.

Taste and adjust the flavor with some salt if needed.

You can also keep the lightly flavored dashi and serve with additional dipping sauce instead. Here are two varieties:

1. Mix up some Japanese light soy sauce or tsuyu along with finely chopped fresh chilies, garlic, scallion, and grated daikon.

2. Mix up some light soy sauce with freshly squeezed lemon juice, perhaps with additional homemade chili sauce.

Hope it warms you up as well.


  1. A rainy day remedy indeed! Comforting, warming, soothing, satisfying. The soup must be so well-balanced with the briny kombu base and sweet napa cabbage. I made mushrooms meatballs last week when it was raining over here. So good.