Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Maitake Udon Soup...
I’ve been wanting to post all weekend but it seems as though time keeps slipping away from me. I’ve been very busy of late, not only with school, work and other activities but with cooking as well as exploring new and interesting ethnic markets. I’ve been very inspired lately to create vegan versions of many of the Asian, and Indian dishes I used to love as an omnivore. It’s been a fun and interesting experience, because I’ve been picking dishes that I’ve never seen vegan recipes for. The world doesn’t need another vegan Sambar, or Tofu Saag. We don’t need another Pad Thai or fried rice recipe what we need are all those delicious recipes no one’s thought to veganize yet. We need the obscure ones! Or at least I do. That’s not exactly what this post is about though, that’s just an explanation for where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.
This post is about a delicious soup inspired by my travels to a Japanese Market in Arlington Heights. The market is called Mitsuwa, and my sole purpose for going there was so I could buy Glutenous White Rice Flour to make a favorite Chinese dessert of mine. (More about that in another post) I saw the flour for sale on Amazon and almost bought it until I read the reviews. The flour cost $6 on Amazon, and every reviewer said they’d bought the same exact product at their local Asian Grocery for $1. So rather then buy the flour for a totally inflated price online and then have to wait for it to arrive I decided to track down the nearest Asian Market. Mitsuwa kept coming back with the highest reviews and so my husband and I decided to check it out one afternoon.
Mitsuwa is amazing! If you live in the area you need to check it out! They have almost everything you could possibly need or want. to make delicious Japanese food at home. They have everything from oodles of noodles, to fresh produce, to exotic mushrooms, dozens of varieties of rice and seaweed, sauces, condiments, snacks, desserts, they even have a bakery, and a food court. There isn’t much vegan in the food court or the bakery but there are a couple of dairy free pastries, and some delicious veggie maki! Initially I went into Mitsuwa with the intention of buying 2 items, and ended up coming home with a bulging bag of goodies. With amazing products being sold for a fraction of the price I pay at my local grocery or health food store how could I resist? After all would you rather pay $4.99 for 10 sheets of Nori or $4.99 for 30? $4.99 for 12 oz of dried udon or $6.99 for 2 pounds of dried Udon? It was an easy choice for me, but I digress.
There were three purchases in particular that I knew I’d have to use immediately. Fresh Maitake mushrooms - which I’ve never seen before, if I see Maitake mushrooms at all, they are always dried. - Fresh Udon Noodles - something I haven’t seen since I lived in Vancouver, Fresh udon is commonly sold lots of places in Vancouver, so going to a speciality Asian market isn’t exactly required. - and a vegetable called Tokyo Negi which is sort of a Japanese Green onion. I’d never tasted it, seen it, or even heard of it before so I knew I had to get it. Since I’d never cooked with any of these three ingredients before I felt the safest thing to do was soup. In fact I’d made a delicious rice noodle soup the week before and still had a hankering for something with a similar flavor.
So after surveying my pantry and jotting down a few ideas, I took my maitake mushrooms, my udon and my Tokyo Negi and set to work. The finished product was outstanding! It definitely exceeded my expectations. While I can’t claim that there’s anything at all ‘traditional’ about this dish, it does remind me of a lot of the udon soups I used to eat in Japanese restaurants and Asian markets when I lived in Vancouver.
The Negi lent a wonderful flavor to the soup as did the maitake mushrooms. I’d never eaten maitake mushrooms and so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were wonderful. The real showstopper however was the Udon. It has been a long, long time since I ate fresh udon, and the last time I did I wasn’t exactly an adventurous eater. I thought they looked like worms or brains and they unnerved me a little, so I wasn’t all that thrilled with them. Now I’ve been shown the error of my ways. Fresh udon are where it’s at yo! They are a must! They’re fat, and soft, and squishy yet chewy. They’re delicate and almost buttery. They are perfection, and far more complex both in flavor and texture than the dried variety. If you can find them you must try them, and when you make this soup I highly suggest you have both a spoon and a pair of chopsticks handy. A spoon to ladle up the broth and the smaller veggies. Chopsticks for the udon. Since they’re so long, fat and slippery they don’t exactly sit still on a spoon, chopsticks are a much more practical utensil, and they certainly imbue an air of authenticity to the meal.
Maitake Udon Soup
1 tsp Sesame Oil
8 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 Thumb sized piece of Ginger Grated
1 Thumb Sized Piece Kombu
2 Tokyo Negi
1 lb Fresh Wide Udon Noodles
5oz Fresh Maitake Mushrooms chopped
2 C Green or Napa Cabbage Shredded
6 C Water + 2 vegan “Chicken” style Bouillon Cubes
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce or Coconut Amino's
1-2 Tbsp Lime Juice
2-4 Tbsp Mirin (to taste)
Sprinkle of Umeboshi Vinegar to taste
½ bunch of Cilantro finely minced.
- Heat oil in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes until fragrant.
- Add in Maitake mushrooms and saute 2 minutes.
- Combine water and Bouillon in a measuring cup, then add to the pot along with the Komband stir to combine.
- Add the Udon Noodles and bring to a boil. Let boil for five minutes then add Tokyo Negi and reduce heat to a low boil/simmer.
- Cook for 10 minutes then add the sliced cabbage. Cook for 5 minutes then stir in the soy sauce, umeboshi vinegar, lime juice and mirin. Stir to combine and simmer 2 minutes. Taste for flavor and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Remove the Kombu from the pot and discard. Turn off the heat and add in the cilantro. Divide amongst bowls and serve garnished with more cilantro.
*** Note - If you can’t find fresh udon you can use dried udon or soba noodles. Though fresh are really worth looking for if you have a good Asian market by you. If you can’t find Tokyo Negi then use about 5 green onions instead. ***
*** Note - Soy-Free if using Coconut Amino’s instead of soy sauce or Tamari***