Photos by Mika Fenn

Photos by Mika Fenn ()

When the breeze turned crisp and the windows of my Japanese grandmother’s home began to drip with condensation, it was a strong indication that my family would be feasting on our favorite “inaka recipe” for dinner.

Inaka recipes are what my grandmother calls any dish typically cooked by the Japanese elderly in rural towns, shared amongst hungry family members and even shared with neighbors, neatly delivered to their doors in saran-wrapped portions. They are recipes passed down through generations and the kind of meals that cannot be ordered off menus from restaurants in Tokyo.

“Suiton” is a perfect example – a hearty bowl of dough balls, crunchy vegetables and tender meat stewed in a flavorful broth. My grandmother likes to cook this for my family on chilly nights and I usually asked for seconds, at least four times.

She learned how to cook suiton from her mother – during the wake of World War II when food was scarce and rice a rarity to come by. Many families opted to use flour as an alternative to the popular staple food.

Her family was no different; as a youngster, my grandmother spent many of her afternoons combining flour and water and kneading the mixture together until it was firm and it “felt like her earlobe.” Once the texture was perfected, she rolled the dough out into a variety of shapes – tiny balls to resemble rice grains, lengthy noodles and palm-sized disks.

Now, most of us need only to press a single button on our rice cooker for fluffy, delicious rice. Not in my grandmother’s home. When cooking suiton, my grandmother expertly pulls and stretches at the dough until it is as thin as paper. She doesn’t need a measuring cup when mixing ingredients.

By dinner time, her living room was fragrant with freshly chopped spring onions and the sweet scent of soy sauce, sugar and mirin concoction. From my spot in the kotatsu, a low heated table, I could see the small of my grandmother’s back through a cloud of steam as she twirled a giant, wooden ladle around in a rusted pot. Finally, she divided the suiton into separate bowls in heaping servings. We always rushed to the dining table.

Food brought my family and me together and I hope my grandmother’s suiton recipe can do the same for you, too.

Recipe by Etsuko Hayasaka Serves 2 people.


  • Suiton dough balls:

  • 70g flour

  • 50ml water


  • 600ml water

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 2 tablespoons hondashi

  • ½ tablespoon sugar

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 100g pork

  • 40g burdock roots

  • 40g carrots

  • 40g onions

  • 20g enoki mushrooms

  • 20g spring onions

Instructions: Mix the flour and water and knead until the dough is firm.

Boil water in a large pot.

Add pork into the pot and scoop out the impurities.

Add thinly sliced carrots, burdock, onions and mushrooms into pot and simmer on medium heat.

Shape the suiton dough into bite-size balls.

Flatten balls to resemble mini pancakes.

The dough should be thin to ensure it can be properly cooked through.

Add the dough to the pot.

Mix in the remaining broth ingredients.

Simmer on medium heat until the dough balls are fully cooked through.


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