Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Japanese Udon Soup with Chicken

Trying a new recipe, especially a foreign one, is not what I would recommend when planning a dinner for company. The novelty will wear off as soon as you finish converting measurement from the metric system. If your company happens to have the necessary patience and tender encouragement however, you may be able to trudge through. In my frantic attempt to create this Japanese meal, I learned to never again go with a recipe that says “please reference this other recipe”. This makes it at least twice as confusing and severely unnerving, as you are always wondering if things apply to both? Either/or? Will the madness ever end?! Luckily, this frustration was just concerning these Japanese Green Tea Rolls I wish not to mention due to their malignant recipe.
The story resolves itself at the table place with a big, steaming bowl of Japanese Udon. Swirling my soup around, smelling the pungent ginger-and-sesame-infused broth seemed to compensate for everything. The simple-minded western cook in me is tempted to call this recipe Asian Chicken Noodle Soup, but I know it would be heresy. It had much more body and unique character than typical chicken noodle: shiitake mushrooms, leeks and spinach [also sriracha or hot seasonings if you choose]. The mushrooms, ginger and touch of sesame oil and soy sauce give it a pleasant oriental taste, as I am sure the additional heat would as well. The white udon noodles were about half the size of regular fettuccini, but about the same width; they were very salty, even when dry. I kept them separate until serving so they would not become bloated and limp by soaking in the broth for hours. Homemade chicken or vegetable broth is always better than canned and quality matters with this broth-based soup. There are many varieties of udon, as well as varying methods and ingredients. I wanted chicken in mine, so I was inspired to use this recipe.
I paired the meal with those Japanese Green Tea Rolls, which were quite yummy, and their unique green shade did become a talking point of the table. However, I sincerely believe that this recipe was intended to be my culinary chagrin of the night. It sent me on a wild goose chase of multiple recipes and odd ingredients, so I have decided against including such a recipe. Once I find a simpler one, if it exists, I will post.
Japanese Udon Soup with Chicken
4 tsp olive oil, divided
2-3 tsp sesame oil
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 ½ cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha [Asian hot sauce], optional
10 oz package udon noodles
2 cup fresh spinach
1. Heat 2 tsp olive oil and sesame oil in large pot over medium heat.
2. Add chicken; cook until just browned. Remove.
3. In same pot, add remaining oil, leeks, garlic and ginger. Cook until leeks are almost tender, add mushrooms. Cook another 5 min until mushrooms are soft.
4. Add broth, soy sauce, and sriracha. Return chicken to pan. Boil, then reduce to low for about 25 min.
5. Meanwhile, prepare udon noodles according to package instructions.
6. Just before serving, add fresh spinach. Once spinach has wilted, ready to serve.
7. Serve over bowl of noodles.
Serves about 5-6 people.

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