Monday, October 5, 2009

Noodles with vegetables and yuba in broth

This dish is based, very loosely, on Madhur Jaffrey's Noodles with Quail Eggs, Mushrooms, Spinach, and Yuba, from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.

Yuba. Oh, yuba. I love yuba. I love it enough to have made it myself, but today I used the dry "stick" version in this soup. You can buy all kinds of yuba at Asian markets, and my guess is that nearly all of them would work fine here, but the picture at the start of this post is what I used. That picture is of two dry, shiny, yuba sticks. To cook with them, they must first be rehydrated for half an hour to an hour in hot water. The sticks will turn a few shades lighter, become chewy rather than crunchy, and then you'll know they're ready. Yuba has so many uses, but in this soup we're just going to be rehydrating it, squeezing the excess water out, cutting it up, and putting it in. But I did rehydrate more than I needed for this particular meal, so look for it in stir fries, etc., in the near future.

Japanese cuisine is wonderful, and at the same time a pain, because not only do you have to consider how all the flavours and textures are going to meld together, but you have to be really aware of how everything will look. In Western-style soups, you generally just toss everything in, give your guests a spoon and a lump of crusty bread and tell them to dig in. With Japanese food, on the other hand, you have to have a whole arrangement planned ahead of time, food in pieces that can be, one way or another, pinched up in chopsticks, and that in addition must look elegant…which is why I was so fascinated by the okonomiyaki that I made yesterday, because it seemed, on so very many levels, so un-Japanese according to the above criteria. The closest dish we have in Canada is poutine, which I must admit I was vegan before I ever heard of, and have never attempted to veganize. So, this is a basic Japanese-type noodle soup. It's also, incidentally, the first time I've ever tried udon noodles. I've often been tempted to buy them, but they are so thick, so white, I've never been able to work up the courage until now. But they were good!

Noodles with vegetables and yuba in broth
Serves 1

one long stick or equivalent of yuba
2 cups dashi or vegetable broth or a mixture
2 softened shiitake mushrooms (left over from making last night's dashi, in this case)
1/4 pound udon noodles
greens (spinach, cabbage what you will; I used broccoli rabe)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp mirin
salt to taste
2 tsp grated ginger
green onions for garnish

Soak the dried yuba in hot water until softened, then slice into 1-inch pieces. Slice the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms into thin slices. Cook the greens in boiling water until softened, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and rinse in cold water. Chop the green onions and grate the ginger. Boil the noodles for three minutes in the water the greens were cooked in, then remove, rinse under cold water, and set aside.

Now make the broth. Heat the dashi or vegetable broth and add soy sauce, mirin, and salt; taste and adjust seasonings until you're happy with it.

Drop the noodles into the boiling broth until heated, then remove and place into a soup bowl. Do the same for the greens, mushrooms, and yuba in turn, arranging everything as artistically as you can on top of the noodles. Pour in some broth. Garnish with fresh green onions.

The grated ginger gets molded into a neat little heap and placed in its own dish for added seasoning; you should also serve additional soy sauce on the side.

Was this good? You bet! Did I then put all the leftovers into the stock pot, heat them all together, and have a messy second helping? I admit, I did, and it wasn't nearly as elegant, though more homely (to me). Kind of an East/West thing—first serving East, second West…which is kind of the way this month seems to be going ;-)


  1. Cool! I'll have to put yuba on my shopping list when I go back home for Christmas (to Manchester, not Japan or anywhere...)

    Your posts are incredibly inspirational and I wish I had the courage to stick to one theme for the entire month like you have.

  2. Beautiful organization...and I Love udon!