Monday Dinner: Niku Udon

For a while, I taught evening graphic design and English courses at a local junior college. Dinner on those evenings varied from leftovers to salad to soup. For a while, I went through an udon streak. Wegmans carries instant udon soup in about four or five different flavors, much like ramen. After a while of watching me eat it, The Wife got curious and fired up a bowl of it for dinner before I got home one night. The result was my buying twice as many packages each week. I think its the texture that I like best in this noodle. The thick rice udon is a little gummier than typical pasta, but not in a gluey, sticky sort of way.

Always on the look out for something new, I ran across this recipe from Serious Eats. I was immediately intrigued. Sadly, Wegmans’ robust Asian grocery section failed me. No kombu. No katsuobushi. No watercress. No tofu. And, the Asian grocery on the east side is closed on Sundays, so my choices were limited. Rather than make my own dashi for this soup, I bought the powdered dashi mix sold at the store. In the interest of full disclosure, I had no idea what dried bonito flakes were until I looked it up online. Naturally, I was skeptical how dried tuna would translate into soup. You should know that smell that comes from the jar of dashi is vile; there is no question that fish, or some sort of fish product, is inside. I swapped out the kombu for some dried wakame to add a little color and flavor to the broth. Speaking of the broth, the mirin and soy provides a phenomenal contrast to the salty, fishy flavor. The Wife already packed the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I bought miso just in case the recipe bombed.

Niku Udon
Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 1 quart water, at room temperature
  • 5 tb hon-dashi powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tb soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 8 ounces beef, very thinly sliced (I picked up some eye round steaks)
  • 1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 scallions, ends trimmed, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound dried udon noodles
  • 1/2 cup watercress

Fill a large pot halfway up with water and bring to a boil.

Pour quart of water into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Add hon-dashi powder to the pan and return to a boil. Add the soy sauce and mirin, stir and add wakame. Turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes, then use a slotted spoon to remove wakame. Don’t sweat it if you miss some of the seaweed. It will add a little texture, color and flavor to the finished product. Using tongs, submerge beef one slice at a time and cook until no longer pink, about 10 seconds apiece. Transfer beef to a plate and cover to keep warm.
 Add tofu (if available) and scallions to the broth and simmer for one minute. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Cook the udon noodles, according to the directions on the package (assuming they are in English). Drain in a colander. Combine beef, noodles and broth, and serve.

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