U is for Udon Noodle Soup
Udon noodles are a popular food in Japan, especially in the southern parts of the country. Made with basic ingredients like wheat flour, water and salt, they are thicker than the regular noodles, and can be round or flat. Usually made into soup, udon can be enjoyed in hot or cold preparations. I’ve made this recipe of udon noodle soup with shrimp balls and a mix of vegetables.
Udon noodles have their origin in China. Legend has it that a monk from Kagawa on the Shikoku island went to China in the 7th century, for studies. When he returned to Japan, he brought back the recipe for udon noodles which was common in China at that time. It is also mentioned that a stone relic in the Takinomiya Tenmangu shrine, called the Ryutoin-ato, marks the location where the first udon was made in Japan.
Fun fact: The dough for the udon noodles is tough and difficult to handle. So it is stomped on to make it pliable.
Most of the Japanese soups have dashi as their base. Dashi is made from bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes or kombu (edible kelp, a large brown seaweed), or both. I used instant dashi powder (available online and in some east Asian grocery stores) for this recipe.
This soup is a delightful melding of flavors. Starting with the dashi which makes a lovely broth, and the shrimp balls flavored with ginger, garlic and scallions, to the sautéed mushrooms and the still crisp snow peas and radishes, it is totally enjoyable. And the boiled eggs provide a creamy satisfying rounding off of the flavors. And it is rather easy to put together, including making the shrimp balls.
This soup is a complete meal that includes protein, starch and vegetables. Usually it is served with just hot mustard on the side.
U is for Udon Noodle Soup
For shrimp balls
For the soup
- Using a food processor (or a chopping board and heavy knife), chop together ginger, garlic, scallions, and 6 of the shrimp, adding 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar to moisten.
- Cut the remaining shrimp into small pieces and add to the chopped mix. Season with salt and pepper.
- To the mix, add the cornstarch and enough of egg white to hold the mixture together.
- Form into uniform small balls and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a pot and add the mushrooms. Fry till light brown.
- Add 4 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil Drop in the sliced radishes and the instant dashi powder. Cover and cook.
- When the radishes are cooked, in about 10 minutes, add the snap peas and cabbage. Continue to cook for two minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring the heat down so that the liquid in the pot is on a slow simmer. Carefully add the shrimp balls to the pot and allow to cook for 3 minutes without disturbing.
- Add the cooked noodles and carefully mix together. Continue to cook for 3 more minutes.
- Take off the heat and serve in two bowls. Place two halves of boiled egg in each bowl.
- Serve with hot mustard or any other chili sauce on the side.