How To Make A Delicious Japanese Zosui With Hotpot Leftovers | CoolJapan

On days when your wanderlust hits a little stronger or when you are feeling a little down over cancelled travel plans, perhaps a bowl of comforting and tasty zosui (Japanese-style congee) is the remedy to nourish your soul back to health. In Japanese, zosui roughly translates to mean assorted ingredients cooked together. It's generally made by adding broth and other ingredients to pre-cooked rice, but there are also tons of variations.

This traditional Japanese dish is not typically found in restaurant menus. It's more like comfort food that is homemade by your mother. Zosui is often served to those who are feeling unwell or who suffer from a lack of appetite. It can also be made from leftovers of other dishes. For example, during the cold winter months, the Japanese like to add rice into leftover hotpot liquid to make this delicious rice soup.

This practice dates back to the olden days when food was scarce and basic household appliances such as electric rice cookers were not available. Back then, it was difficult to keep cooked rice warm. So, a way to reuse cold rice was to combine it with dashi broth or miso soup. At the same time, this method of adding liquids to rice enabled the poor to stretch the meagre amount of rice they had and fill their tummies.

The difference between zosui, ojiya and okayu

Zosui Versus Okayu(Left) Zosui; Photo from Kinoko Zosui/CC. (Right) Okayu.

There are no significant differences between zosui and ojiya. Both are cooked by simmering rice in soup and many people use these two terms interchangeably, depending on the region they come from. The uniqueness of zosui comes from briefly boiling cooked rice together with savoury stock where the rice grains still retain its shape. 

As for okayu, it is created by cooking uncooked rice with a bigger ratio of water so that it becomes a gooey and soupy congee. It is most often plain or paired simply with an umeboshi (pickled plum) or pickled vegetables. That being said, both zosui and okayu are classic Japanese soul food that will comfort you while you stay at home during troubling times like this.

Easy zosui recipes to make at home

Not only is zosui a nutritious and delightful appetising dish, but it is also incredibly easy to make. There are many ways to cook zosui because it could be made with almost any ingredient. Here are some recipes that even amateur home cooks can pull off.

Tamago zosui (Basic egg-drop rice soup)

This is the most basic egg-drop zosui recipe that Japanese mothers often make for their families when someone is sick or when the weather turns cold. Also, this is the most ideal to cook when your weary mind and body needs a quick, comforting boost. Requiring just cooked rice, dashi stock, sliced carrots or shiitake mushrooms for texture, chives and an egg, this recipe can be cooked in less than 15 minutes. If you would like to jazz up the flavour a little more, you can add chicken, fish or any leftovers that you find in your fridge.

Kani zosui (Crab meat rice soup)

Craving for a more indulgent dish to improve your mood? You have to try this mouthwatering kani zosui recipe by Master Sushi Chef Hiroyuki Terada, one of the most popular Japanese chefs on YouTube. If you find it a hassle to pick the meat from crab shells, this decadent rice soup can also be substituted with shrimps, mussels, clams or any type of seafood you fancy. This recipe requires slightly more culinary talent and ingredients but the outcome is definitely worth it. 

Yasai zosui (Vegetable rice soup)

For the health enthusiasts, here is a great recipe from Zojirushi (the famous Japanese manufacturer of thermal flasks and rice cookers) that makes use of brown rice and vegetables. Employing similar cooking methods as the other recipes previously mentioned, fresh vegetables such as cabbage, bamboo shoots and Swiss chard are used here. However, you can replace them with any leafy green vegetables that you like and even add in Japanese mushrooms.

Butternut squash and edamame zosui with ginger and green onion relish

You can also try this scrumptious butternut squash and edamame zosui recipe. To make the squash and edamame soft quickly, this modern recipe uses a pressure cooker. If you do not own one, you can do it the traditional Japanese way and achieve the same results by boiling it in an earthen clay pot for 15-20 minutes. Not only is this zosui wholesome and nutritious, but it is also a flavoursome rice soup that will calm your heart and warm your body. Yummy!

Hotpot zosui

Hotpot zosui

At the end of a hearty hotpot dinner, what remains is the essence of the meats, seafood and vegetables that have been boiling away in the soup. Rich and flavourful, this is the best broth that you can get as it has the culminated taste of all the ingredients that went into the hotpot. So as to not let this broth go to waste, the Japanese people often add cooked rice into the mixture where it is simmered briefly to create the final course of the meal.

You can also drizzle in a beaten egg to enhance the umami flavour of the zosui. After a few minutes, when most of the broth has been absorbed, sprinkle some freshly chopped green onions on top and the ultimate Japanese-style hotpot zosui is ready! Try it the next time you have hotpot; it will be an unforgettable finish to a most satisfying meal.