Many years ago, there was a Japanese restaurant in the area we used to frequent, mostly for the sushi, that was until I was introduced to one of the best soups I ever enjoyed called, Nabeyaki Udon. The broth had a uniquely different flavor that was mild and comforting yet very fulfilling. The noodles were fat and slippery with a soft texture lightly absorbing the flavor of the broth without becoming mushy. The Nabeyaki Udon always topped with a large piece of shrimp tempura, then immediately confiscated by my youngest, Alex the Athlete, who in addition to being a sophisticated sushi eater since about the second grade also loved anything fish, including shrimp tempura.
I have a Japanese friend who once shared Thanksgiving at our home and we have kept in touch since then. I am sure he once got a bit of a chuckle when I shared with him about this amazing Japanese soup I had eaten called Nabeyaki Udon. For this soup is so commonly eaten in Japan that conversely would be similar to him sharing with me that he had this amazing American Hamburger topped with cheese and ketchup. Nevertheless, there are many simple ways as this example on how people between cultures get to know and understand each other experiencing common foods.
From the Japanese restaurant experience, I then began regularly purchasing Udon noodles at the International Market and have always kept a box of Dashi powder in my pantry, which is the instant base for making the stock of Nabeyaki Udon and any version of Udon soup. This is also a good time to apologize for not showing a photo of the box since I keep my Dashi in a glass container. However, you only need to ask what aisle the Dashi is in at your Asian or International Market and they will likely walk you right to the spot. I frequently use Dashi for quick Udon soups and there are many varieties consisting of a simple broth with noodles topped with scallions to the more complex or broader variety of ingredients as I include in the recipe here.
Soup served with Udon Noodles can also vary from the simple base broth of water with added Dashi powder, or Dashi and Miso Paste, to Dashi, Miso Paste, soy sauce and Mirin (Rice Wine.) Adding ingredients to the Dashi broth can also then lend more flavors to the broth. I make all of these combinations and the one I made yesterday where I cook a whole chicken in plain water to make a base chicken stock.
Once cooked, I remove the chicken from the pot to cool and cut up the chicken to use in the soup. I then add cold water to the broth filling the pot almost to the top. The added water will not dilute the flavor from the chicken broth since the added Dashi will fully add the next dimension of flavor.
One summer day one of Alex’s former teammates and her friend who played on another team were both coaching at a nearby sports camp and came for dinner. Despite typically hot summer days, this particular afternoon the clouds became dark and a storm came through that even knocked out the power at the International Market. I changed my menu that moment and decided that in addition to the sushi I was getting for the girls that I would prepare Udon soup. Alex’s teammate, Kirsten, loved this soup so much that it was her first recipe request when I first launched Spiced Peach Blog. As Kirsten was traveling around a bit I never did send her a box of Dashi as I had intended so I figure that today is the perfect time to at least share the recipe. I am hoping that her current coaching location has an international market in the vicinity for though I can still send the box of Dashi, frozen or fresh Udon noodles might prove more challenging.
If you do not keep a variety of Asian products in your home, the key ingredients to purchase are a box of Dashi, soy sauce, Mirin, and a package of Udon Noodles. I did not use Mirin in the recipe today, or the time I made it for the girls, and it is excellent still. Adding in the Mirin gives an added flavor. In today’s recipe I did add Miso Paste and you can achieve excellent flavor with just the chicken broth, and added Dashi powder. If you decide to purchase the Miso Paste, you can also use the paste on another day to fix up a quick broth using just a teaspoon or more of the Dashi in 3 cups boiling water and stirring in a couple of Tablespoons of Miso then adding in cubes of tofu and any variety of vegetables, meats or fish you desire and topping the soup with scallions. Alternatively, you can also make plain Miso soup with a 3-4 cup ratio of water to a third or half cup of Miso paste to taste, and also add in a tiny bit of sesame oil. Therefore, you see there are many variations for you to be creative and enjoy comforting and healthful flavors of these ingredients, and enjoy your Udon Soup with Chicken, Salmon, Shrimp and Greens too.
- 1 whole small broiler chicken, 3-5 pounds
- 1/4- cup dashi powder, or more to taste
- 2 heaping tablespoons miso paste, or more to taste
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin, rice wine vinegar
- 1-pound piece of salmon, skinned, and cut into cubes
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled
- 6 slices pink fish cake, cut into half moons, optional
- 1-2 bunches bok choy, leaves stacked and sliced in half lengthwise, then chopped into one-inch pieces on the diagonal
- 1 bunch spinach, chopped
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 5 fresh shitake mushrooms, stem removed, thinly sliced
- 1/2 block of firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 1 individually wrapped package of frozen udon noodles per person (typically sold five in a package)
- Into a large stock pot place the whole chicken with enough cold water to cover three inches. Simmer chicken on low to medium temperature for approximately one hour until the chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken from pot and transfer to a large bowl to cool. Add 4 cups cold water to the chicken broth in the pot heating together until very hot, then pour in the dashi powder and stir. Taste broth for flavor and add more dashi if a stronger flavor is preferred. Stir in the miso paste, adding in more to taste if desired. Cook flavored broth on low temperature for five minutes minutes then drip in the soy sauce and mirin, continue simmering. Remove skin from the cooked chicken slice off the two breasts from the bone then cutting into cubes. Reserve remaining chicken pieces for another use. Return cubed chicken pieces back into the soup broth. In a separate pot, boil some water and cook the udon noodles for three to five minutes until softened and cooked through, drain, and set aside for the final soup assembly. Drop salmon, shrimp, and half moon slices of fish cake to soup and cook for three minutes. Add in the bok choy, spinach, tofu cubes, shitake mushrooms cook another five minutes. Add in the scallions just before serving and stir through. Place a serving of hot udon noodles into each bowl and ladle the soup on top of the noodles and serve.
- Dashi, miso paste, mirin, pink fish cake, fresh shitake mushrooms, tofu, and udon noodles may be easily obtained at any Asian or international market. Both the pink fish cake and udon noodles are located in the freezer section. Some items are now carried in the international section of supermarkets, though at much higher prices.