In Japan the cooler weather calls for deep bowls of hot, steaming noodles. Following is a very simple recipe for a standard “Kake Udon” ie Udon noodles with basic broth (Kakejiru).
As with other Japanese noodles such as Soba, Ramen and Somen there are of course many variations on the theme but this traditional broth is a crowd pleaser. And so easy to make.
You can keep your noodles as simple as you like – perhaps just topping with aromatics such as shichimi or negi (spring onion) or some yuzu zest.
But for something a little more substantial add one or more of the following : shredded leafy greens/ par- cooked sturdier vegetables, sliced cooked meat such as pork or chicken, tempura prawns or vegetables, Kamaboko (fishcake), diced tofu or sliced fried tofu, grated daikon, yam or ginger, strips of toasted nori or crunchy sesame seeds for texture – or just a perfect raw egg and allow it to cook in the hot broth.
Occasionally I enjoy a thicker, curry sauce for sturdy Udon (Kare udon) and in the depth of winter I adore ankake (a slightly sweetened, thickened broth) over my noodles – with lots of finely sliced negi (spring onions/shallots/scallions) and some finely grated ginger or wasabi. In summer Udon can be served cold with a dipping sauce made from a slightly sharper, chilled broth.
8 cups (2 litres) Dashi * see note
4 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake
½ cup Usukuchi shoyu (thin/light soy sauce)
- Cook enough noodles for 4 people in accordance with to the maker’s instructions – make sure you refresh them in cold water to halt the cooking process.
- Meanwhile to make the broth put the mirin and sake in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and stir in the shoyu/soy. Allow to cool.
- Put your dashi in a large saucepan and slowly bring just up to the boil. Stir in the soy mixture. Divide the noodles between 4 bowls and ladle the hot broth over the top. Garnish/season as desired. (see above)
Homemade “ichiban” or no.1 dashi is best but if you can’t access the ingredients (ie Kombu and Katsuobushi) instant is fine! There are a range of quality instant dashi now available – including vegetarian dashi.
Of course the end flavour of your broth is up to personal taste and can be altered with a slightly different ratio of the ingredients. The base flavour will also vary depending on the quality and strength of the ingredients you use. Please note that I use usukuchi or light soy because of my strong connection to Western Japan but the soup base varies according to region and some areas prefer Koikuchi or thick/dark soy.
Have fun designing your own signature Udon!