Many Americans now know and love Ramen. In New York City, almost every neighborhood has a Ramen restaurant that serves up a good, hearty bowl that could possibly hold its own in Japan. However, Udon has not yet caught on in the same way, so we wanted to take the chance to try something a little different, and maybe introduce our readers to a underrated and under-appreciated Japanese classic.
The dish literally means ‘Fox Udon’, but contains 0.00% fox (cool!). The dish gets its name from the aburage–age (fried tofu skin) which takes on a light-brown color resembling the coat on a fox.
We followed the recipe almost word-for-word from Japanese Soul Cooking, a cookbook we recently purchased (courtesy of Strand Bookstore) that we’re excited to go through!
First we created the dashi, the Japanese version of stock, by steeping kombu (edible kelp) in water and then boiling the water with bonito flakes.
The dashi then became the main ingredient for the tsuyu, the broth, which was made by combining the dashi with soy sauce and mirin (a rice wine that frequently appears in Japanese cuisine).
Phew… were experiencing udon broth inception here.
The abura-age was boiled in a mixture of water, mirin, and soy-sauce to soak up some flavor. After that, all that was left was the assembly stage. The tsuyu was poured over the Udon noodles, the abura-age and kamaboko (Japanese fish cakes, our addition to the recipe) were placed over the noodles, and thinly sliced scallions were added to top things off.
It looked like udon, it tasted like udon, but the texture of the udon was a little off. In following the cookbook word for word, we didn’t boil the noodles (just went straight to pouring the broth over it) and so the dish was a little too al dente. Next time, we think boiling the udon first will make it softer and more noodle-like.
With that said, the tsuyu was perfect – very light and yet full of flavor and umami thanks to the konbu and bonito flakes. The abura-age also soaked up the broth like a sponge, adding a unique consistency you wouldn’t expect from an ingredient in noodle soup.
Whereas ramen can pack a punch with its pork belly and miso and countless other (incredible) additions, udon feels like a more mature, subtle soup. We’ll definitely save this recipe for when we want a satisfying noodle soup with none of the guilt.