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Author Notes: Along with Fondue, this Udon Soup is the culinary highlight of the winter season for us! The recipe can appear daunting for the newbie, as it once was for me, but when your veggies and meat are chopped, and your dashi is made, the rest of it is just a matter of heating and blanching, and the assembly happens pretty quickly. I keep dashi in the freezer and when I have sauteed shiitakes on hand, and the deep cold of a New England winter has set in, Beef Udon can be just 30-60 minutes away from the table. While it spells COMFORT food for me big-time, I take extra comfort in the fact that it is so healthy- broth, noodles, a little beef and alot of colorful vegetables, no dairy, and very low fat. (There is salt via the soy sauce, but it will not leave you slurping water all night!) If you have young kids, serve their bowls of hot udon with some dried bonito flakes on top; the heat makes the flakes move and dance! —LE BEC FIN
- 3 cups Dashi * ( a fish broth)
- 1 c. shiitake broth** (or dashi)
- 2-4 T. tamari or Japanese Soy Sauce
- 2-4 T. Sake
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 T. canola oil
- 8-10 sliced fresh shiitake caps***
- 2 T. canola oil
- 3 scallions, rinsed, thinly sliced in rounds
- ½ lb. shaved beef, fresh and sliced or frozen and sliced
- 1 T tamari or Japanese soy sauce
- 1 T sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 -2 medium carrots, sliced in thin half rounds
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced in thin half rounds
- 1 c. snowpeas, sliced on diagonal
- 9-16 ou. fresh or frozen pre-cooked udon(I prefer Sanuki style, the white square chewy ones)
- ½ lb. soft tofu, in ½ inch cubes
- Toasted Sesame Seeds
- You will need two 2 quart+saucepans on two front burners. Fill the right saucepan with 6-8 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in the left pan, add shiitakes and saute 5 minutes til cooked through. Remove shiitakes to an empty saucepan or bowl.
- Add scallions to the hot oil in pan and stir fry over high heat 1 minute.
- Add meat, stirring quickly, then add soy- salt and stirfry a few more seconds til still a little pink inside. Pour into shiitake bowl.
- Add dashi and shiitake broth to left pot, add soy- salt mixture to taste,cover and bring to boil; then turn to low simmer and cover.
- In the right pan, drop in carrots to boiling water, remove after 30-60 seconds, when carrots are easily pierced .Add them to the shiitake bowl.
- Add zucchini til cooked through, ~ 2 minutes, and remove to shiitake bowl.
- Finally, drop in the pre-cooked udon noodles and stir to separate. Remove in ~ 1- 3 minutes, after heated through. Be careful not to overcook the udon. Add to shiitakes bowl. (A bamboo-handle Chinese wire mesh scooper is ideal for all this blanching.)
- Divide the dashi and bring to a boil in the 2 saucepans. Divide the udon into the saucepans, cover and quickly bring each pot to a boil, then add all the vegetables and beef and quickly bring to boil. Immediately pour into 2 heated serving bowls. Top with cubed tofu and sesame seeds. Serve. If you are serving 4+ people, repeat all of the above for every 2 bowls. We serve udon soup in big (10 cup) pasta bowls with a flat bottomed white Chinese spoon.
- *DASHI : 1 5 inch piece of kombu( a hard thick olive green dried seaweed) if you have it; 5 c. water; 2 1/2 c.bonito flakes; Dashi is so much easier to make than fish or chicken stock, but you do need to find its 2 ingredients at a Japanese store. I like a stronger dashi than most Japanese, so I cook it longer: Add kombu to pot of water, remove it just as the water comes to a boil. Add bonito flakes and push down into the water. Turn off the heat. When bonito has sunk to bottom of pot, bring back to boil; turn down to simmer 10-30 minutes. Strain, pushing on solids. I yielded 3 c. dashi from 5 c. water. (I simmer the bonito flakes a second and longer time for myself. Then I compost the flakes or give them to the kitties. You can also buy tea bag-like dashi mix at Japanese stores.)
- ** SHIITAKE BROTH: Boil and then low simmer the stems from 1 lb. fresh shiitakes in 6-8 cups water. Simmer, covered, 1-2 hours, adding water to keep original level. Strain broth, pushing down on solids. Cook this down to intensify flavor. Whenever I saute fresh shiitake, I make shiitake broth, and keep some in the freezer for soups and sauces. Like any stock, you can cook it down significantly so it takes up less freezer space.
- ***You can use dried shiitake/black mushroom caps, poached in water 1/2 hour til tender, then sliced, but make sure they are not too old (no scent.) I have come to prefer the silky and meaty texture of fresh sauteed shiitake.
- If you have leftovers, store the solids separated from the liquid so they don't get mushy.