Udon for the New Family

Udon for the New Family

Learn how to make a delicious and comforting udon dish with spinach, eggs, and enoki mushrooms using staple Japanese ingredients. Follow the steps to prepare homemade udon broth and assemble this fast and fantastic dinner. Perfect for those looking for a quick meal with easy cleanup!

As my wife and I adjust to our new life with Blizzard Baby -- our cute son was born smack in the middle of last weekend's raging snow storm (getting to the hospital was an unbelievable saga) -- I wanted to whip up something fast, delicious and comforting for din din last night, our first of 2011. I checked my cupboard and fridge. I always keep staple Japanese ingredients on hand, so I pulled out usukuchi soy sauce, mirin, wet sea salt, dashi packs and dry udon (you can find all this stuff on my shopping website). I scanned the fridge and saw I had spinach, eggs and enoki mushrooms on hand. Okay, so how about udon in a hot broth with spinach, eggs and enoki? This is the versatility I keep talking about in my posts, which is the wonderful hallmark of Japanese cooking. I could use so many other ingredients to make hot udon, too, like abura age (deep fried tofu sheets), shiitake mushroom, thin sliced beef or thin sliced pork.

The trick to making udon broth is getting the proportion of liquids right, the classic version being 10 dashi to .8 usukuchi soy sauce to .8 mirin to .1 salt. I used the metric side of my measuring cup to figure this out; metric is so much easier. Okay, steps to this dish:

  1. Place a large pot of unsalted water to boil over high heat.
  2. Make a quick dashi with dashi packs, following package instructions. (See this.)
  3. Once the dashi is ready, combine 1000 ml dashi (1 liter), 80 ml usukuchi, 80 ml mirin and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and reserve. (Usukuchi soy sauce is saltier than all-purpose soy sauce -- udon broth is typically a bit saltier than, say, soba broth.)
  4. Trim a package of enoki mushrooms, trim and wash a 1/2 bunch of spinach. Don't sweat the quantities, use more or less, as you wish.
  5. When the pot of water is boiling vigorously, place a metal colander inside it. Now add the enoki mushrooms to the colander and let them blanch for about 30 seconds, or until the mushrooms lose their rawness. Pull the colander out of the water with tongs and rinse the enoki under cold water to stop the cooking (the ole' "blanch and shock" technique). Set the enoki aside. Now, place the colander back in the boiling water and drop the spinach in the colander, and blanch for about 30 seconds, or until the leaves turn bright green. Pull the colander out of the water with tongs and rinse the spinach under cold running water. Squeeze out excess water from the spinach, forming into a kind of log, then cut into portions. Set aside. Do not discard the boiling water -- let it keep boiling, 'cause soon you're going to cook the udon noodles in it.
  6. Measure out portions of dry udon noodles on your kitchen scale. 100 grams per person is the typical portion. If you're a linebacker or sumo wrestler, up the quantity. (By the way, I hope you have a kitchen scale; if not, go out or online and buy a digital version now! A kitchen scale is as important as your knife. Oops, sorry to finger-wag! :) ) Add the noodles to the pot of boiling water and cook following package instructions (see this).
  7. While the udon is cooking, bring the heat up on the broth again. Beat 2 or more eggs in a small bowl. When the broth is simmering, swirl in the eggs this way: Hold the bowl in one hand, and a pair of chopsticks together, pointing down, in your other hand. Place the top part of the chopsticks against the bowl, and tip the bowl, so the eggs pour down the chopsticks. Now move both hands together in a circular motion to swirl the eggs into the broth. The eggs will set instantly. Turn off the heat. Another option, by the way, is to poach the eggs in the broth; that's also delish.
  8. Now it's time to assemble the dish. In a deep bowl, add noodles. With a large spoon (or a flat Japanese ladle), spoon some egg on top. Place enoki and spinach on top, too. Pour broth over the noodles until you fill the bowl. Do this for all your servings. Sprinkle a little shichimi togarashi on top, if you'd like, and go to town. Delicious.

So there you have it. A fantastic dinner, fast to prepare. And just two pots to wash -- the stockpot and the saucepan. Hey, now that I've got this parenting thing going on, I don't have time for a pile of dirty dishes! Enjoy...