Japanese Udon Noodle Soup

Chow on 01.25.11
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I'm a sucker for any type of noodle soup, I've been known to even sneak an instant ramen for a midnight...er...3am snack!

Udon noodles are thick, hearty, wheat-based Japanese noodle. You can find udon dried or fresh in shrink-wrapped package. They last quite a long time fresh in the refrigerator, so it's convenient to pluck a package out and make udon noodle soup with it.

THis recipe is from Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Tradition by Elizabeth Andoh, one of the very best cooking teachers and authors for Japanese food. It's beautifully illustrated and one of my favorite cookbooks of 2010.

Recipe printed with permission from:

Japanese Udon Noodle Soup Recipe

Kansha: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Tradition

by Elizabeth Andoh Published by Ten Speed Press

serves 4

3 or 4 large dried shiitaké mushrooms
3 cups water
11/2 ounces daikon tops, kale, or other leafy greens, loosely tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
3 sheets thin fried tōfu (page 282)
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, preferably maitaké (page 272), trimmed and hand shredded into 1/2-inch lengths
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon saké
1 slender carrot, about 2 ounces, scraped and cut into matchsticks
2 ounces daikon, scraped and cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon light-colored soy sauce
2 sheets hoshi yuba, softened (page 261) and coarsely shredded, or 1/4 cup finely broken hoshi yuba (1/4-inch bits)
11/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
Cooked udon noodles, for serving hot (page 55)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Extract a stock from the dried shiitaké mushrooms: Break off the stems and set them aside for making stock on another occasion. Here you are using only the dried shii¬také caps to make a stock (and to cook later with the other vegetables). Soak the caps in the water in a bowl for at least 30 minutes and preferably for 1 hour or more. Remove the caps from the water and rinse them to remove any gritty material, then squeeze gently. Pour the soaking water through a fine-mesh strainer (or disposable coffee filter) into a clean bowl to remove unwanted bits that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Set the stock aside. Slice the dried shiitake caps into very narrow strips.

Bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil. Blanch the bundle of leafy greens for 30 seconds, or until they wilt and turn a vivid green. With long chopsticks or tongs pull them from the pot and set aside. Blanch the tōfu slices in the same pot for 1 minute, or until oil swirls on the water’s surface. Drain, cut each slice lengthwise in half, and then cut each half crosswise into short, narrow strips. Blot away excess oil from the strips. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture, chop coarsely, and set aside.