Miso Soup with Sardine Fish Balls (いわしのつみれ汁; iwashi no tsumire jiru)

Sardine fish balls are nutritious and full of umami. When matched with the sweetness of Chinese cabbage, you've got a delicious miso soup that's nothing short of culinary magic!

Miso Soup with Sardine Fish Balls (いわしのつみれ汁; iwashi no tsumire jiru)
Photographed by Hideo Sawai

Recipe by
Yoshiharu Doi




Soups & Stews



Calorie count is per serving.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 5 sardines (large) (500 g)
  • [A]

    • 20 g ginger (grated; unpeeled)
    • 25 g red miso
    • 3 tbsp flour
    • As needed sansho pepper
  • 250 g Chinese cabbage
  • 1 Japanese leek
  • 1 konbu kelp (8 cm square)
  • Sansho pepper, to taste
  • 30 g miso
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil



Scrape off the scales from the sardines with a knife. Cut off the heads and slice open the bellies. Scrape out the guts and wash under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel.


Before preparing the sardines, cover the chopping board with paper to easily dispose of the guts. Wash away all traces of blood and entrails.


Chop the Chinese cabbage into easy-to-eat pieces. Cut the leek diagonally into 2 cm slices.


Thinly slice the sardines, starting from the head end, then finely chop.


Put the chopped sardines into a suribachi grinding bowl and grind thoroughly. Combine [A] in the order in which the ingredients are listed and grind to a smooth paste.


Pour 800 ml of water into a pot, add the konbu and place over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, add the Chinese cabbage. When it returns to a boil, use a spoon to form the sardine paste into bite-size balls and gently add to the soup.


Simmer briefly and skim off the surface scum. Add the leek and simmer for another 5 minutes.


There's no need to remove the konbu.


Dissolve the miso and simmer for another 2-3 minutes to allow the ingredients to absorb the miso flavor. Drizzle the sesame oil in a circular motion just before serving. Pour into individual bowls and sprinkle with sansho pepper to taste.


[What is a suribachi?]
A suribachi is equivalent to a mortar. Japanese mortars have radial patterned dents on the inner side to grind ingredients or make paste.