About ten years ago, I was invited to my sister-in-laws’ parents house for a traditional Japanese meal. There in the kitchen were several generations of Taira women cooking up a storm! Udon, tempura, gyoza, teriyaki & sushi all being prepared while these women talked and gossiped. It was amazing to see them work together, rhythmically, without any communication about what was going on around them. Peggy had the udon on the go, Toyo was frying up some tempura and Aunt Lil was gossiping about the recent trip to the casino while rolling sushi. I was in culinary heaven! It was then and there that they beckoned me into this kitchen and asked me if I knew what they were doing. My response was vague, telling them that I had eaten and seen most of these things, but had never cooked them myself. Peggy and Toyo simply giggled and Aunt Lil pulled me by the arm and took me over to the stove to explain to me how the udon was made. What an education these three women gave me, and have continued to give me for years after. So, it probably comes as no big surprise that I keep a secret stash of Japanese ingredients on hand at all times; bonito flakes, kombu, nori, tofu, wakame, edamame - you get the picture.
On a recent Sunday morning, when the thought of bacon and eggs was not even an option, I pulled out my big green Creuset and proceeded to make a big batch of udon for Doug, Zoe and I to enjoy. On this day, I made my dashi broth by cooking the kombu in water with the bonito flakes and some tamari (click here for a simple dashi recipe). While letting it cool, I cooked off my udon noodles and strained the stock. I was lucky enough to have a few fresh scallops leftover in the fridge, as well as some lobster meat – both perfect additions to the soup. I added in some shitake mushrooms, tofu, edamame and spinach and had myself a pretty amazing udon!
The great thing about udon is that you can basically add anything to it and it always tastes great! I suggest that on some blustery day, when you don’t know what to cook, have a go at making your own udon and see what combination works for you!