A few weeks ago I made Udon Noodle Soup for dinner. It is one of my weeknight go to recipes because it is quick and always a hit with my family. My 4 year old loves to use chopsticks, and she is surprisingly good at it. My 2 year old just loves all the noodles. I, on the other hand, love watching them eat something filled with vegetables, mushrooms, ginger and tofu with abandon. It makes me feel quite proud of them and their willingness to experience new and different tastes.
Every time I make noodle soup like this I can’t help but think about the movie Tampopo. If you have never seen it, you must. It is the story of a woman on a quest to make the perfect noodle soup. It’s quirky and funny and one of the best food movies I have ever seen. I saw it over 15 years ago and it has stuck with me all this time. I remember coming out of the theatre and wanting noodle soup so bad I had to go and find some immediately.
Now every time I make this soup I wonder if it would measure up to the soup that Tampopo, the movie’s heroine, finally learns to make. I doubt it does, but in the end it doesn’t really matter, because this movie is about exactly what I myself strive for when I cook. It’s about the enjoyment of food and the adventure of eating. I think that is the reason it has stuck with me all these years and somehow, that fits neatly with the image of my two young daughters slurping up bowls of udon noodles.
Udon Noodle Soup
This is one of those recipes I vary to suit my mood. I will list what I made in the photos above and include recipe variations.
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 large clove of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons soya sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 portions of udon noodles
2 baby bok choy, washed and quartered (you can add bean sprouts or spinach)
2-3 king oyster mushrooms, sliced (you can use enoki, shiitaki, whatever you like)
1 package firm tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes (here you can use shrimp, barbeque pork, grilled chicken, again whatever you like)
1 tablespoon of a neutral oil, like canola or vegetable oil
2-3 spring onions sliced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
In a large saucepan, combine broth, soya sauce and rice wine vinegar. Grate the garlic and ginger into the broth. I use a microplane or small grater. Bring the broth to a boil and reduce to simmer for 5-10 minutes, just enough time to allow the broth to become infused with the garlic and ginger. Season with pepper and more soya sauce to taste.
In a small non-stick fry pan, sauté the mushrooms and tofu cubes in the tablespoon of vegetable oil until they are browned on all sides.
In a separate saucepan bring water to a bowl for the noodles. Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. At the last minute add the quartered baby bok choy to the water, just to blanch the vegetable. Drain, rinse and set aside. I cook the noodles and bok choy separate from the broth so that they stay firm. I have found if you cook them in the broth both become mushy and the broth becomes cloudy.
Place a serving of the cooked noodles into your soup bowl. Place a serving of the mushrooms, bok choy and tofu on top. Pour the hot broth over your noodles and vegetables and garnish with the sliced spring onions and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.