Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kitsune udon (and a word about mirin)

I was out with a friend for most of the day, and didn't have time to prepare anything fancy, but I did have some dashi in the refrigerator, as well as some abura age (deep fried tofu) from last weekend's inari sushi, so this dish seemed appropriate. It's adapted from Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen.

First, though, a word about mirin. Mirin is usually described as "sweet Japanese cooking wine," and Kimiko Barber says it can have as high an alcohol content as 22 percent. The first bottle of mirin that I bought, however, had no alcohol content, and tasted much like a mixture of corn syrup and rice vinegar—not unpleasant, but not particularly special. I could see, using this, why some recipes will just tell you to substitute 1 tsp of sugar for 1 tbsp mirin if you don't have mirin.

But then I went back to the market and picked this up.

This is much more like it! It really does have a particular taste, one that adds something very good to the dishes it is a part of. You would never want to drink it on its own—it is far too syrupy and sweet—but as a cooking ingredient, it's fantastic.

Kitsune udon (udon noodle broth with deep-fried tofu)
adapted from The Japanese Kitchen
Serves 1 as a main dish or 2 as a side dish soup

2 pieces of abura age
a quarter's width of dried udon noodles

Tofu broth:
½ cup mushroom dashi
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp light soy sauce

Noodle broth:
2 cups mushroom dashi
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 ½ tsp mirin
pinch salt
pinch granulated sugar

For garnish:
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 reconstituted dried shiitake mushroom, sliced
pea shoots or other greens
Shichimi togarashi, to taste

Blanch the tofu in boiling water to remove excess oil, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Combine the tofu with the tofu broth ingredients and bring to a boil; simmer the tofu pieces in the broth until the liquid is reduced by half, then set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and cook the noodles. Add a cup of cold water when the water returns to the boil—you may have to do this three or four times—until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles, rinse them, and divide them between two bowls.

Heat all the ingredients for the noodle broth in a separate saucepan, but don't bring to a boil. When it is hot, arrange the tofu in its broth and the sliced mushrooms over the noodles in the bowls, ladle on the noodle broth, and top with the chopped scallions and shichimi togarashi. Serve at once.

This did take three saucepans to make, but I am really getting to like these little soups. When the dashi is already done—I had made it in the morning—they're super easy to put together with whatever you have in the fridge, and they're beautiful and very tasty.


  1. The soup is so beautifully composed.

  2. Hey, what do you know; almost this exact recipe is in Veganomicon, page 180, Kabocha-udon winter stew. I was so happy to find it I almost made it today--I even have a kabocha squash--except that it would have been so very similar to this it would have been boring to look at, though not to eat...Isa and Terry have shortened a few steps; in particular, they don't boil and stew the abura age (fried tofu) separately, and I think I'll do the same next time.