Udon noodle soup is widely popular because of the minimalist taste of its nature – the secret of this scrumptious Japanese cuisine is actually in its dashi.
Dashi is a Japanese stock, and it is a fundamental ingredient in many Japanese dishes. The most common combination to make a basic dashi is Kombu (dried kelp) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes).
In this udon recipe, the dashi stock includes 4 main ingredients such as dried shiitake mushrooms, niboshi (dried baby sardines/anchovies), kombu and katusobushi to bring out the rich umami flavor.
Like many Japanese noodles, udon noodles are usually served chilled in the summer and hot in the winter. Toppings are chosen to reflect the seasons. Most toppings are added without much cooking, although some are deep-fried like tempura shrimps and vegetables.
600g fresh udon noodles
1 cup shimeji mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped scallions or spring onions
1 to 2 cups pea shoots
8 tbsp mirin
8 tbsp soy sauce
a pinch of sugar
6 cups dashi*
6 ebi tempura*
shichimi tōgarashi / Japanese chili powder, optional
*Homemade Dashi Stock
30g kombu (dried kelp)
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
30g katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes)
1 cup niboshi (dried baby sardines/anchovies)
6 cups water
- Do not wash the kombu. Good kombu is covered on the surface with a fine white powdery substance. Do not wash this off. Soak kombu and niboshi in 6-7 cups of water for an hour or up to overnight.
- Transfer kombu and niboshi dashi to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Remove the kombu just before it boils completely, otherwise the dashi will become slimy and bitter. Add dried shiitake and let it simmer for 8 minutes. Add katsuobushi and simmer for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes then strain. After straining, the dashi is now ready for use.
1 cup ice water
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all purpose flour
6 large shrimps or tiger prawns
cooking oil for deep frying
extra flour, about 1 cup
- Peel and devein the shrimp, but leave the tail intact (scrape the dirt particles off the tail using your knife). Make incisions in the belly of each shrimp. Press down firmly on the shrimp, moving from one end to the other, until the shrimp is completely straight. This is to prevent it from curving up while frying it. Lay aside on paper towels to absorb any moisture.
- Combine ice water and egg yolk in a medium bowl, blend well. Pour wet ingredients over flour and whisk lightly (do not over mix, the batter should be slightly lumpy).
- Pour extra flour in a shallow dish. Dredge prawns in flour and then dip into the batter. When the oil is hot (170-180°C), you are ready to deep fry the prawns.
- Fry about 1 minute on each side. Place the tempura onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any oil.
- Combine dashi, mirin, soy sauce and sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add shimeji mushrooms and udon noodles, cook for 3 minutes. Add the pea shoots and blanch them for 10 seconds. Refresh in cold water and drain. Place udon noodle soup in bowls and top with pea shoots, scallions and tempura. Sprinkle some chili powder on top.
It’s done!!! You may want to add these cute little swirls – Japanese Kamaboko Fish Cake (narutomaki) to make it look more enticing.
Many thanks to the warm, friendly and talented Food Photographer – Justin De Jesus – for collaborating and working with me in this food experimental pursuits. You can check out his craft and works below: