Bring a piece of Kanazawa home by cooking jibuni in your kitchen. The combination of chicken, tofu, and vegetables simmered in a thick soy-base soup is perfect for colder months.
Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan. The city is most famous for its garden, Kenrokuen, widely considered among the top three gardens in Japan.
Kenrokuen is especially lovely during the cherry blossom season in spring and is equally magnificent with its fall color display in autumn.
Enjoying the local specialty, Jibuni (治部煮), a soy-based stew with chicken and vegetables, is a must. Many restaurants in Kanazawa serve jibuni, so don’t miss it when visiting the city.
What are the ingredients in a jibuni?
Traditional jibuni, especially the one served in kaiseki (Japanese formal dining), always uses duck as the main ingredient. However, in my previous visits to Kanazawa, most places served jibuni with chicken.
My recipe will use chicken as the main ingredient but know that you can always change the chicken to duck for special occasions.
For this jibuni recipe, I will be using:
- atsuage (fried tofu)
- fresh shiitake mushrooms
- scallions; Use naganegi (Japanese leek) if possible.
- spinach; Use horenzo (Japanese spinach) if possible.
If you are eating some jibuni in Kanazawa, it will most likely include fu (麩, baked wheat gluten). Kanazawa is famous for its fu, so it is one of the more popular souvenirs to get on your visit. But, since it can be hard to get fu outside of Japan, I skip it from the recipe.
Some other commonly used Japanese ingredients you can add to your jibuni are satoimo (small taro), dried yuba (dried tofu skin), and bamboo shoots.
The signature thick soup of the jibuni
Jibuni’s signature is its thick soup, which we get by adding katakuriko or potato starch.
You should be able to find katakuriko (potato starch) in any Japanese grocery store or other Asian grocery stores.
If you cannot find katakuriko, you can replace it with cornstarch.
Other ingredients for the soup include dashi, sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
Prepping for the jibuni ingredients
Start by slicing the chicken at an angle into thin 1/2-inch bite-size pieces. Coat each piece with katakuriko, and be sure to remove excess starch. Set aside.
If you buy atsuage (fried tofu) from a store, I recommend blanching tofu in hot water for 30 seconds to remove excess oil. If, instead, you fry a block of firm tofu and are only using a minimal amount of oil for frying it. You can skip this step. Pat dry, cut the tofu into bite-size pieces, and set aside.
Blanch spinach for 30 seconds, and quickly cool it down in a bowl of cold water to stop its cooking process. Gently squeeze water out from the spinach and cut it into 2-inch lengths. Set aside.
Thinly slice naganegi (leek) or scallions into thin slices and set them aside.
A side note about dashi (Japanese stock)
Dashi is the base of most Japanese dishes. Its function is very similar to chicken stock in Western cuisine.
If your supermarket doesn’t carry konbu or bonito, please use dashi granules and follow the packaging instructions to prepare the required amount for this recipe.
How to cook jibuni
1. Cook tofu and vegetables
Add all soup stock ingredients into a pot. Add shiitake, carrot, and tofu into the pot and cook until boiling.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
2. Cook chicken
Add chicken pieces, one at a time, submerging each piece in the soup. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.
You will notice that the soup will thicken as we add more and more chicken pieces into the pot.
3. Add leeks/scallions
Add the leeks/scallions into the pot. Turn off the heat after 30 seconds.
Since jibuni is commonly served as part of kaiseki (Japanese formal dining), try to make the presentation as elegant as possible.
Each guest gets an individual serving bowl. Try to arrange jibuni by clustering the same ingredients together, and then place blanched spinach on the side and top with a small amount of wasabi.
Tori no Jibuni - Kanazawa Chicken Stew
- 450 gram boneless skinless chicken thigh
- katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch
- 8 (~ 150 gram) fresh shiitake, remove stems
- 100 gram carrot, thin slices
- 300 gram atsuage (fried tofu), bite-size pieces
- 1 naganegi (Japanese leek) or 4 scallions, thin slices
- Soup stock
- 2 cup (500 ml) dashi stock (or 500 ml water + 1.5 tablespoon dashi granules)
- 200 ml sake
- 8 tablespoon soy sauce
- 8 tablespoon mirin
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- Slice chicken diagonally into thin bite-size pieces and coat each piece with katakuriko.
- Blanch spinach for 30 seconds, then cool them down in cold water. Gently squeeze water out from the spinach and cut into 2-inch long.
- Add all soup stock ingredients into a pot. Add shiitake, carrot, and tofu into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through.
- Add chicken pieces, one at a time, ensuring that each piece is completely submerges in the soup. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. You will notice that the soup will thicken as more and more chicken pieces are added into the pot.
- Add the leek/scallions into the pot and cook for about 30 seconds. Turn off heat and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Add spinach into the serving bowl, and serve the jibuni with some wasabi on top.