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Koi-ko-ku (Carp-Burdock-Miso Soup)

Prep Time

15 min

Cooking Time

2.5 hours





  • 1 small fresh carp, shaved

  • burdock (same in weight as carp), shaved

  • 1/2 - 1 cup used bancha twigs, wrapped and tightly tied in a cheesecloth sack

  • 1/2 -tbsp fresh ginger

  • dark sesame oil (optional)

  • pureed barley miso to taste

  • water

  • sliced scallions for garnish


  1. Ask the fish seller to carefully remove the gallbladder and the yellow bitter bone (thyroid) and leave the rest of the fish intact. This includes the head, fins, tail, and scales. Cut the fish in chunks. You may remove the eyes, if you wish. Wash the carp, and set aside. 

  2. Place a small amount of dark sesame oil in a pressure cooker, and heat up. Add the shaved burdock, saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Place the cheesecloth sack filled with used bancha twigs on top of the burdock. The used tea twigs will help soften the hard bones of the carp. Do not use fresh, unused twigs as they will make the soup taste very bitter. Set the carp on top of the burdock and twigs. Add enough water to cover the carp and burdock. Place the cover on the pressure cooker, and bring up to pressure. Reduce the flame to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

  3. Remove from the flame, and allow the pressure to come down. Remove the cover, add enough pureed miso for a mild salty taste (1/2 to 1 teaspoon pureed miso per cup of soup), and add the ginger. Reduce the flame to low, and simmer until the bones are soft. 

  4. Place in serving bowls, and garnish with sliced scallions. 

  • Carp soup is very strong and is best eaten in small volume. One cup at a time, daily, for two or three days is sufficient in most cases. If taken in larger quantities, it may cause cravings for fruits, liquids, sweets, or other strong yin foods.

  • Carp soup can be stored in a tightly sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for about 5 to 7 days. However, if frozen, it loses freshness and energy. For those with restricted oil intakes, water-saute the burdock instead of using oil.

  • Carp soup may be boiled instead of pressure-cooked, for 4 to 6 hours, until the bones are soft. As liquid evaporates during boiling, add a little more water.

  • If carp is not available, you may substitute fresh-water trout. Have the insides removed and leave the rest of the trout intact.

  • If burdock is not available, you may substitute it with carrots, sliced in matchsticks. (Half burdock and half carrots can also be used.) If you use trout, the time needed to for pressure-cooking is reduced to 50 to 60 minutes. After seasoning with pureed miso and grated ginger, simmer for several more minutes on a low flame. Garnish and serve hot.

  • In this dish, a small amount of oil is used for the purpose of softening the bones and high mineral textures of the fish. For persons with serious illness, oil is allowable in this dish.


Michio and Aveline Kushi

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