Hot udon or soba

Hot udon or soba

By
From
JapanEasy
Serves
4
Photographer
Laura Edwards

Before ramen, there was udon and soba. I mean this in a historical sense as well as a personal one. Udon (thick wheat noodles) and soba (thin buckwheat noodles) predate ramen in the history of Japanese food, enjoyed as early as the 17th century, whereas ramen is a more recent invention, originating towards the end of the 19th century. The long history of udon and soba, combined with the fact that they are typically served in a very ‘Japanese’ dashi-based broth, may be why they are considered more traditional than ramen, which still retains some of its foreign cultural odour. (Ramen originated in China. But so did udon and soba – just longer ago.)

I also started slurping udon and soba before ramen. When I was first exploring Japanese food as a teenager, first in Milwaukee and then in Los Angeles, udon and soba were just more common. Practically every Japanese restaurant served them. Ramen was a slightly more niche thing. And although ramen became my one true noodle love (I fell head-over-trotters for my first bowl of properly rich tonkotsu pork broth ramen), I still have quite a lot of affection for the more delicate – but still satisfying – udon and soba. Ramen, for all its charms, can sometimes feel like a punch in the gut. Udon and soba feel more like a big hug.

This is a very basic recipe for udon and soba in hot broth, with just a few simple toppings. If you want to embellish your noodles a bit more, there are some suggested recipes in the pages that follow.

Tremendously not difficult

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 block firm tofu
oil, for shallow-frying
1 litre dashi
100ml mirin
80-120ml soy sauce, to taste
4 portions udon or soba noodles
2 spring onions, finely sliced
toasted sesame seeds
4 eggs, poached or soft-boiled, (optional)

Method

  1. Microwave the tofu on high for 2 minutes to express excess water (if you don’t have a microwave, you can gently weigh the tofu down under a plate or two to gradually squeeze out the water – but this takes a good hour or so). Cut the tofu into thin slices, roughly 5 mm thick.
  2. Pour oil into a wide, non-stick frying pan (skillet) to a depth of at least 5 mm and set over a high heat. Pat the tofu slices dry with kitchen paper and gently lay them in the hot oil. Cook on both sides until golden brown, then carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  3. Pour the dashi, mirin and soy sauce into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning with soy sauce as you like.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Soba should be simmered – anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, so taste frequently. If you’re using fresh udon, it will hardly need more than a minute. When the noodles are al dente, drain them and transfer to deep bowls. Pour over the broth and garnish with the fried tofu, spring onions, sesame seeds and eggs, if using.
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