I’m always on the lookout for beautiful, delicious food that is also healthy. To say nothing of the delight in making a meal that didn’t empty the wallet at the check-out. Enter this sweet and toothsome goodie, “Udon Soup with Vegetables and Tofu,” that’s just as far away from your capital T-typical noodle soup as it can get without falling off the edge of the comparison. Add vegetables, lovingly cut PREE-cisely teensy of course, a nice slew of tofu, and you’re eating a recipe from Elizabeth Andoh, who is number forty-one on Gourmet Live’s list of 50 Women Game-Changers.
Living in Japan for for decades, Elizabeth Andoh attended Yanagihara Kinsaryu School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine (Tokyo), wrote several Japanese cookbooks (scroll down for list), and for years served as Gourmet magazine’s Japanese food writer. She also teaches cooking classes in Tokyo if you’re ever out that way. Most recently, Andoh published Kibo: (“Brimming with Hope) Recipes and Stories
from Japan’s Tohoku…
This cookbook is a heartfelt and fascinating tribute to the food, traditions, and courage of the people of Japan’s Tohoku region before and after the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It features traditional recipes such as Miso-Seared Scallops, Pinched-Noodle Soup with Pork, Salmon-Stuffed Kelp Rolls, and basics like rice, stocks, and sauces, along with sake pairings and essays on Japan in recovery from journalists and food writers.
If you’d like to give the Udon Soup a whirl, it’s yum, but I’ll give a few heads’ ups:
1. Read the recipe all the way through so you have a sense of the order in which the steps take place. For instance, you’ll need 30-60 minutes to soak shiitakés for the broth before you really begin.
2. Plan on going to the Asian market or substituting some ingredients.
3. While it looks quick, and doesn’t really take long, the chopping of the ingredients
is all to matchstick-size or shredded in the case of the mushrooms. Plan your time accordingly.
4. If you taste the soup before adding the greens and grated ginger, you’ll think it needs seasoning. The fresh ginger, however, is the kicker here. Warm and giving, it folds the whole bowl together with its pungent heat.
5. My soup had little broth and I added a bit of vegetable broth toward the end of the cooking.
courtesy New Asian Cuisine and Andoh’s book KANSHA: Celebrating Japan’s Vegan and Vegetarian Tradition
3 or 4 large dried shiitaké mushrooms
3 cups water I thought there was too little broth; you could increase the water here.
11/2 ounces daikon tops, kale, or other leafy greens, loosely tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
3 sheets thin fried tōfu (page 282)
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, preferably maitaké (page 272), trimmed and hand shredded into 1/2-inch lengths
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon saké Had no saké. Used white wine.
1 slender carrot, about 2 ounces, scraped and cut into matchsticks
2 ounces daikon, scraped and cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon light-colored soy sauce
2 sheets hoshi yuba, softened (page 261) and coarsely shredded, or 1/4 cup finely broken hoshi yuba (1/4-inch bits) I could not find this and didn’t add it.
11/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
Cooked udon noodles, for serving hot (page 55) Easy to find, but you could sub whole wheat linguine.
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Extract a stock from the dried shiitaké mushrooms: Break off the stems and set them aside for making stock on another occasion. Here you are using only the dried shii¬také caps to make a stock (and to cook later with the other vegetables). Soak the caps in the water in a bowl for at least 30 minutes and preferably for 1 hour or more. Remove the caps from the water and rinse them to remove any gritty material, then squeeze gently. Pour the soaking water through a fine-mesh strainer (or disposable coffee filter) into a clean bowl to remove unwanted bits that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Set the stock aside. Slice the dried shiitake caps into very narrow strips.
Bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil. Blanch the bundle of leafy greens for 30 seconds, or until they wilt and turn a vivid green. With long chopsticks or tongs pull them from the pot and set aside. Blanch the tōfu slices in the same pot for 1 minute, or until oil swirls on the water’s surface. Drain, cut each slice lengthwise in half, and then cut each half crosswise into short, narrow strips. Blot away excess oil from the strips. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture, chop coarsely, and set aside.
Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Toss in the tōfu and allow the pieces to sear for a moment until lightly browned at the edges. Add the fresh mushrooms, then the slivers of softened dried shiitaké and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until any excess liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are aromatic. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds longer. Add the saké and stir-fry until the pan is dry.
Add the stock (it will sizzle and sputter a bit, so be careful) and lower the heat to maintain a steady but not-too-vigorous simmer. Skim away the first large cloud of froth that appears with a fine-mesh skimmer. More froth will appear (this is normal when using shiitaké mushroom stock) as you continue to simmer. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, then skim away the froth again.
Add the carrot and daikon, season the soup with the mirin and light-colored soy sauce, and continue to sim¬mer for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are firm but tender and the flavors are melded.
Add the yuba and stir to distribute, and then add the soy sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Add the mixture to the pan, raise the heat to high, and stir until thickened and glossy. The final soup will have the consistency of a thin sauce.
Divide the noodles among 4 warmed bowls, then divide the soup evenly among the bowls. Top each serving with some of the chopped greens and a small mound of ginger. Serve immediately.
Read Amy Sherman’s 2010 interview on Epicurious with Elizabeth Andoh
Check out the list of lovely cookbooks available from Elizabeth Andoh
Want to read more Elizabeth Andoh recipes? Check out the great blogs below:
Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden
Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
Mary – One Perfect Bite, Sue – The View from Great Island, Barbara – Movable Feasts
Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo, Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen, Annie – Most Lovely Things, Jeanette – Healthy Living
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table
Kathy – Bakeaway with Me, Martha – Simple Nourished Living, Jill – Saucy Cooks
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Sing a new song, make a new soup!