Sorry for the two week lapse! I moved to a lovely new apartment, and I went on a variety of trips, including one to NYC. It was amazing. I got to see some of the best people I know, which was a delight.
We ALSO got some amazing food, including dim sum in chinatown which was a highlight. If you don’t know what dim sum is, shut your whore mouth and go eat some as soon as you can. I didn’t take any pictures because pictures of dim sum is for suckers – it means you took time away from eating for photographs. Bush league.
Anyway. All that NYC feasting got me thinking about noodles. I love noodles. I rarely eat noodles in my own home, for some crazy reason. I’ve been working on changing that this week. First up was a more thai-inspired dish with a gingery broth, rice noodles, and lots of veggies.
It was very pretty but the broth didn’t blow me away, nor did the rice noodles. So I kind of switched gears and went with miso soup and udon noodles, two things I feel very passionate about. And guess what? It’s fucking easy to make. Let’s get into it, nerds!
- One 12-ounce package fresh or frozen udon noodles
- 8 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dashi granules
- 1/4 cup white miso paste (shiro miso), scooped into a small bowl
- 1 tablespoon dried seaweed (for miso soup), soaked in water and drained (or, ya know, just dry if you’re me…)
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- Fresh veggies of your choice, such as matchstick carrots, snow peas, cucumber, fresh mushrooms (I used shiitake), bean sprouts, greens, etc
- Cook udon noodles according to package directions. For me, that involved bringing water to a boil, dropping the noodles in, cooking for one minute, and draining.
- Pour the 8 cups of water into a pot and bring to a boil. Add the instant dashi and whisk to dissolve. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the seaweed to the pot. Simmer for 2 minutes.
- In the meantime, spoon the miso paste into a bowl. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot dashi broth into the bowl and whisk with chopsticks or a whisk to mix and melt the miso paste so that it becomes a smooth mixture.
- Turn the heat off, add the miso paste to the pot and stir well. Taste the soup – if it needs more flavor, whisk in another tablespoon or two of miso paste. Do not allow the miso to boil – it will become grainy.
- Prepare a bowl by adding noodles, fresh veggies, and ladling the hot broth overtop. Serve immediately.
1. Prepare for battle.
This dish is nice because you can add whatever you want to dress it up. It can be as simple as udon noodles, green onions, and seaweed, or you can add a ballston of other stuff like I did, because Veggietales scarred me as a child and now I punish vegetables. Pictured here vegetable-wise, you can see bean sprouts, green onions, matchstick carrots, some spicy radish greens, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and cucumbers. Would I have put the bean sprouts and carrots in those cute little bowls if this wasn’t for a blog post? Fuck no. Jerks.
But what the fuckall is that other stuff on the left? If you don’t make asian food at home, that stuff might be alien to you. One of them, dashi, is a brand new friend of mine and I’m stoked to tell you about it.
What is all of this stuff?
Let’s talk about it. I’m starting with the udon noodles in the front, and going clockwise.
- Udon noodles. I can only ever find them frozen, which is what these are. They usually come in packs of four at international/asian grocery stores. There’s one just around the corner from me, for which I am very grateful. Anyway, udon noodles. What can I say? They’re amazing. Fat, very soft and squishy, but a super pleasant texture (I almost wrote “mouthfeel”, please shoot me). These puppies are made from wheat flour and are japanese in origin, and are generally served in noodle soups. I love them. Can’t say enough positive things about them. Squishy. I love my squishy.
- Seaweed! What I show here is nori, which is essentially a type of edible seaweed that’s been cleaned, shredded, and basically made into little paper sheets for sushimaking and other purposes. Cool, right? Right. It has fairly low nutritional value of any kind other than vitamins A and C, but dang is it tasty. Salty and tangy and yum. This is a spicy kind. I don’t think this specific kind is really FOR miso soup, I think it’s more meant as a snack due to it’s short rectangular shape. But you know what, I’m still learning and it tasted great so hopefully I’m not offending anyone.
- Dashi grains. I just learned about dashi and I want everyone to know about it. I’d made miso soup at home a couple of times before, but it never tasted like it does in restaurants. I was very distraught. I thought I wasn’t good enough. It’s weighed on me for YEARS, YOU GUYS (sort of). Then I read up a little bit, and learned about dashi. It’s essentially a stock or bullion made from fish and some other additives, which give it the nice umami flavor people are always talking about. Umami is considered one of the basic tastes, alongside sweet, sour, bitter, salty, etc. Actually, maybe not etc. I think that’s all of them. Anyway, umami is good. Dashi is good. The one used here is “instant” because it’s been made into little grains, rather than flakes, so it dissolves right away. It’s a key part of miso soup, which I somehow never knew. Key concept: miso soup is NOT vegetarian, which, I repeat, I somehow never knew.
- Miso. Essentially a paste of fermented soy beans. Super tasty, and can be used in a lot of things, from salad dressings to soups, sauces, glazes, etc. I always keep some in my fridge, it lasts a long time. There are a couple different kinds. the main ones being red miso (akamiso) and white miso (shiromiso). Red is fermented longer and has more soybeans in it, and is generally saltier and stronger tasting. White miso is a little more subtle, and therefore more widely used. I’ve got white miso here.
So those are our new players. Anyway, back to the normal business…
2. Prep your ass.
This essentially means slicing the green onion, shiitakes, seaweed, cucumber, or whatever else you’re using. My carrots came pre-sliced, because matchsticking carrots is a pain in the ass. Make sure to wash those mushies! Also, I highly suggest getting shiitakes, oyster mushrooms, or another asian-y mushroom over portabella, whites, or any other common mushroom. Very different texture raw, and the shiitakes were great.
I’m into these veggies, let’s take another look.
Fuckin’ yeah. Good stuff. Yum.
3. Cook the udon noodles.
Boil a pot of water (I refuse to show a picture of this step). If you’re prepared emotionally, chop the veggies while you’re boiling the water. Once it’s boiling, just open the packet and drop the noodles in.
The noodle brick will sort of lay sadly on the bottom of the pan, but it will go on to do great things – terrible, yes, but great. Anyway, give it a single solitary minute in the water. It won’t come back to a boil or do anything noticeable at all, but give them a prod and…
They will be soft. Drain them before they become overdone, and set aside.
4. Prepare the miso broth.
This is going to fly by faster than you can believe so hold on to your butts. Boil the 8 cups water. I should note that I actually halved this to 4 cups for me, because I didn’t want a huge amount of broth to eat forever, so I scaled the recipe down accordingly. Do whatever you want with that information.
Once the water is boiling, add your dashi. It will dissolve almost immediately, and then you can give it a good stir. The water will look essentially unchanged, but will smell sorta flavor-y.
After the dashi has been added, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the seaweed. The original recipe has the seaweed soaked and drained beforehand to make it soft, but I just went ahead and skipped that since I’m pretty sure I used a different kind of seaweed.
Next, take the small bowl of miso paste, and add a bit of broth to it, and stir. You want to totally dissolve the miso in the broth, so that you have a thick liquid miso situation. Otherwise, it will be hard to dissolve in the whole big pot of broth. Add a bit more broth if you need a little boost when stirring. Since I halved the recipe, I used two tablespoons instead of 1/4 cup. Fun fact: 1/4 cup has 4 fucking tablespoons in it. So a tablespoon is 1/16th of a cup. USEFUL SHIT!
It looks kinda gross, but keep going.
Ta da! Now add all that business into the pot.
Holy shit! Surprise! You’re done! Now assemble your bowl. I put down the noodles first, then all the veggies, and ladle on the broth last so I know there’s enough room for everything.