Having lived in Japan for 8 years, I can personally attest to Udon noodles having saved my poor student butt a number of times. A straight bowl of Udon noodles with an egg can be had for about $3 in Kyoto, so it’s pretty much a standard for every student in the weeks (or god forbid months) before the next loan check comes in. There’s even a famous little shop in Kyoto that will let you have a bowl for free if you do half hour of washing plates afterward!
But first, I must clear something up. While browsing the web for Udon recipes, I find hundreds of sites that refer to the thin regular noodles as Udon. They aren’t, they are simply Ramen noodles. Only one particular part of Japan has thin Udon noodles, and they don’t export it. Udon noodles are very much thicker and altogether more meatier than regular noodles, so please don’t confuse the two. That isn’t to say that Ramen noodles aren’t just as tasty, but the two are very distinct. In fact, if you wanted to make any of these recipes with with either kind of noodle, you could probably get away with it.
So today, I’m going to teach you two of my favorite student recipes from my memories of Udon. Yes, I do have many memories of Udon from Kyoto – not temples, shrines, geisha girls and beautiful scenery – but Udon. Anyway, as the Japanese would say “Let’s learning cooking Udon!”
The is the incredibly cheap kind of Udon dish you can buy in Kyoto, though you could actually spend a fortune on one if you went to one of the high class Udon places. The name Kitsune, meaning Fox, comes from a legend that Japanese foxes like to eat the fried tofu stuff. Or so they say… It’s a very simple recipe, and you will need:
– 1 or 2 slices of Abura Age, or Fried Tofu
– 1 pack of Udon per person.
– Soy sauce
– Kamaboko fish cake
We need to do a little prep on the Abura Age before cooking the main dish. First, pour boiling water over it to remove the excess oil. Next, put the Abura Age in a pan along with 3/4 cup of dashi, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon mirin, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Simmer this until the watery part has disappeared leaving only the flavor filled Abura Age bits.
Next, heat the Udon noodles as indicated on the packet – which generally means boiling water for 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, combine the following in pan and heat to make the sauce: 5 cups dashi, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons mirin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Finally, drain the noodles and put them in a bowl along with the soup you made. Add some Kamaboko and the pre-prepared Kamaboko on top. Done! Authentic Kyoto Kitsune Udon.
Believe it or not, curry flavored anything (or kare as they like to call it) is remarkably popular in Japan. Don’t be fooled though – Japanese curry generally taste nothing like real curry. It’s sweeter and has pretty much zero spiciness to it. It was inevitable that as the Curry flavor invaded Japan, someone would decide to combine it with something traditional, like Udon. Here’s what you’ll need to make enough for 2:
– 1 cubes of Japanese curry stock. It IS different to regular curry powder, so be sure to hit up your local Asian supermarket.
– 2 tablespoons of dashi powder
– 1 tablespoon of rice wine
– A dash of Soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
– 1 and 1/2 bowls of water
That’s it for the basic curry soup with Udon in it, but you’re probably going to want something else in there too. I’d suggest the following ingredients, but it’s really open to suggestion so don’t feel like you have to follow exactly.
– 1 chicken breast
– 1 carrot
– A few shiitake mushrooms
– Some bamboo shoots
– Tofu slices
You’ll need to boil the mushrooms for about 20 minutes if you buy the dried Chinese kind. If you buy fresh, the only other bit of prep you need to do is to cut the chicken into bite size pieces and slice the carrot. Fry the chicken for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots and carrot. Continue frying for a bit.
Combine the other ingredients (except the Tofu) in a pan and simmer, then add the fried chicken and bits. Simmer this down until you have your desired consistency. Tofu should be added at the last moment to avoid it breaking into little pieces and dissipating into the soup. The Udon should be prepared separately, following the instructions on the packet. Drain the Udon, add the soup, and finish with some spring onions or sliced leek on top!