Yield 2-3 servings • Time 90 minutes
Making your own udon is a fun and rewarding experience. It can be so enjoyable and cathartic to make dishes that require the assembly of many smaller parts. It’s really a shame that “one pot meals” have become so popular on the internet these days.
Udon, for me, is the perfect soup. The broth is less salty and more nuanced than ramen and the noodles are thick and chewy. This is how I make it at home, but there is infinite room for variation and expansion. Perhaps top yours with a fried egg or some fried chicken for a more filling bowl; add a swig of scotch to play on the smokey flavour of the bonito and the sharpness of the sake or substitute spinach for whatever green vegetable you wish. As long as the broth is well-executed, the dish will be delicious.
For the stock
Dashi is a beautiful Japanese soup stock. It’s the basis for udon or miso soups. It’s also super simple. It is made from Kombu (a kind of dried, crystal-y kelp), dried bonito flakes and water.
• 2 big, flat sheets of kombu
• 1/2 cup of bonito flakes
• 1.5 liters of water
Let the kombu sit in water overnight in the fridge.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, bring the kombu-water to a near boil. When the water is hot, add the bonito flakes. Cook for 5 minutes, then take off the heat, cover, and let sit for 1 hour.
If using right away, strain the dashi into a pot or a bowl.
If you have made it for later use, leave the kombu and bonito in the broth and refrigerate it in an airtight container and strain it before use. Dashi can be kept this way for up to two days.
TIP: A fine mesh strainer works well, but cleaning bonito out of mesh can be difficult. Cheese cloth or a coffee filter makes for easier cleanup.
For the soup
• 6 cups dashi
• 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup mirin
• 1/4 cup sake
• 1 Cup fresh shiitake mushrooms. Stems removed
• 1/2 cup enoki mushrooms
• 1/2 cup oyster mushrooms, sliced
• 2 packs fresh udon noodles.
• 1 bunch fresh spinach. (Not baby spinach, big adult spinach.)
• Frozen fish cakes (optional)
• Toasted black sesame seeds
• 5 green onions. Sliced thin
• 1 tsp ground white pepper
• Shichimi togarashi (optional)
Soak the dried mushrooms in enough hot water to cover them. Let them sit while we move on to other things.
Fill a big bowl with water and ice cubes. Place it in the sink.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt. Place the washed spinach in the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until they are a perfect green colour and the stems are still tender. Do not let them over darken.
Once the leaves are just wilted, just barely cooked, just perfect and succulent and great, shut the water off, pluck them out and fully submerge them into the ice water. Take the spinach out, put it on paper towel or cloth. Let dry.
Slice the frozen fishcakes thinly. Put them in the hot water used to cook the spinach. Let sit.
Add the Dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and the dried mushrooms with water into a pot. Place on the stove over medium-high heat.
Once it is all hot, you should taste it. See if you want more soy sauce, more Mirin. Extra soy sauce can make the soup somewhat more refreshing, I find. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the green onion, reserving some for garnish, and stir in the fresh shiitakes. Cook until mushrooms are tender.
Add the fresh udon, using chopsticks to coax the noodles apart in the pot. Stir in the shichimi and white pepper.
Use tongs or a fork to lift the noodles out of the pot and into serving bowls. Top with broth, leave 3 cm from the top. Helps to have big bowls.
Place a few pieces of the cooked spinach on the side of the bowl, resting on top of the broth. Opposite that, place the fishcake slices. Sprinkle the reserved green onions. Dust with black sesame and more shichimi.
TIP: If you have leftovers, store the noodles separately from the soup. It’s a bit of extra work, but it keeps the udon at a perfect texture instead of slowly turning mushy in the fridge.