I’ve always had a huge fondness for noodles and for simple food, so udon has quickly become one of my favourite meals to slap together when I forget to prepare something in advance. The kombu dashi broth gives the dish a comforting warmth and a gorgeous umami flavour.
I use dried kombu for this recipe, but if you can only find the sachets you can just use one of them instead. You can also use other types of kelp if you can’t find kombu. This is a vegetarian recipe, but you can give this dish a further umami punch by making a traditional dashi stock using bonito (katsuobushi) flakes — you can also buy bonito powder in sachets that work just as well.
The little quick pickle I do for the kombu in this recipe is something I decided to do so as to not waste all of the kombu that is boiled to make the stock. The idea came from eating at a lot of Korean restaurants, where they often serve you a pickled seaweed (Miyeok Muchim) as a side dish — I’m a big fan of mixing cuisines!
Although you don’t get the same strength of flavour from the short amount of time the kombu soaks for as you would with a proper pickle, it still takes on a nice sharpness that helps to cut through the umami flavours of the broth.
I used Taiwanese bok choy for this recipe, as it is a bit lighter and soaks up the broth a little more than regular bok choy. I’m also a huge fan of the pale green leaves and the thin profile of it, it looks so nice in a bowl of fat udon. Having said that, using another bok choy wont make a massive difference in flavour, so by all means use what you have on-hand.
Prep Time 10 minutes (+ 30 minutes wait time)
Cook Time 30 minutes
For the Broth
- 2 strips of dried kombu (100g approx.)
- 4 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp fresh ginger (diced)
- 1 tbsp cooking sake (or rice wine)
- 30ml rice wine vinegar
- 800ml water
- 270g dried udon noodles (or equivalent weight cooked udon)
- 1 large Taiwanese bokchoy (or regular bok choy)
- 100g enoki mushrooms
- 1 small handful fresh coriander (40g approx)
- Large pot
- Small pot
- Chopping board
- Tongs or chopsticks
Preparing the Broth
- The first thing you need to do is to soak the kombu. To do this, place it in a bowl and pour hot water over it until covered (about 100ml water). The longer you soak it, the more flavour you will get out of it when you boil it, around 25-30 minutes is what I usually like to do, but if you’re in a hurry you can do it for 15 with decent results.
- Once the kombu has soaked, pour it, along with the liquid, into a small saucepan. Add approximately 700ml of water and bring it to the boil. Once it boils, bring it down to a simmer and leave it to come down for about 20 minutes.
Preparing the Bok Choy and Enoki
- For the bok choy, start by plucking off the individual leaves, like you would a cabbage, and washing them thoroughly.
- I personally like my bok choy in larger pieces, so I simply slice the leaves in half lengthwise. This means you get a nice crunchy mouthful in the broth once they are cooked. If you prefer to separate the stalks from the leaves, then you can do that, but remember that the leaves cook much faster, so put them in later.
- Save some coriander leaves for garnish and then finely chop the rest.
- For the enoki, chop the dirt-covered base off the mushrooms and then simply pull them into smaller clusters of mushrooms, as pictured above. Trust me, you want to keep these mushrooms a bit larger so they soak up all that broth!
Making the Sauce
- Add 3 tbsp of the soy, 1 tbsp of the mirin, the diced ginger and the sake together in a small bowl and mix together. Give it a taste and check that the balance is to your liking.
- Once the kombu has been boiling on the stove for at least 20 minutes, use tongs or chopsticks to remove 1 strip of the seaweed and place it on your chopping board. You can discard the rest.
- Pour the soy, mirin, ginger and sake mixture into the pot and continue to simmer.
The Shredded Kombu
- Pour the rice wine vinegar and the remaining soy sauce and mirin into a small bowl.
- Chop the kombu you placed on your board earlier into very thin strips — if the kombu is thick, you can cut it in half first and then finely chop it.
- Place the kombu into the vinegar sauce and leave it to sit while you get on with the next step.
Cooking the Components
- Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to the boil with a pinch of salt in it — you don’t need a lot of water for this, but I like to use a large pot to keep the noodles circulating nicely.
- We want to just blanch the bok choy, so place it into the boiling water for about 30-40 seconds and then remove and place in a bowl to the side.
- Once the bok choy is out, make sure the water comes to the boil again and place the udon in. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. This can differ a lot between dried and fresh. I would highly recommend that you taste the noodles yourself to determine whether they are cooked or not. This is a good habit to get into for things like noodle, pasta and rice (and pretty much anything else) as it will help you learn how much bite you like — I will always recommend al dente, whether it’s pasta or noodles, but to each their own!
- About 1 minute before the noodles will be done, place the enoki into the broth (not the water) and let them simmer until the noodles have cooked.
- Once the noodles are cooked, strain off the water and rinse the noodles with hot water.
- Plate up by placing the noodles in first, followed by the bok choy and enoki. Pour in the broth next. Garnish with the shredded kombu and coriander leaves and enjoy this wonderful comfort food!
What’s great about this dish is how simple it is, in every aspect. The preparation is fast and easy, the ingredients are light, the broth is so subtle and yet so well-rounded in its flavour. As it stands, I find that this recipe serves two people quite nicely, however I could imagine eating bowls and bowls of this stuff pretty easily. There’s really no better way to satisfy your hunger than with heaping bowls of udon!