Tsukimi Udon: Noodle Soup with Poached Eggs
Udon is a traditional thick wheat noodle, extremely popular in my home region of Kansai. There are any number of ways to make Udon: recipes change from region to region and from season to season. The Japanese version of Wikipedia lists no fewer than 29 regional variations – some dryer, some wetter, some wider, some narrower, some cooked soft, others almost “al dente”.
In Shikoku – the spiritual home of udon – they eat it without any dashi, just soy sauce and, sometimes, with a raw egg on top. That doesn’t appeal to me very much, but I’ll tell you what does: Tsukimi Udon. Literally “watching-the-moon udon”, this is a seasonal automn recipe my husband loves, a noodle soup with poached eggs.
As with many udon dishes, you could also make this with soba – buckwheat noodles. You could, but I wouldn’t: as far as I’m concerned, soba is “northern” food. Where I’m from, it’s udon or bust.
Before we start, please be aware – Udon is not Italian pasta. The “common sense rules” you learned cooking spaghetti will not work here. And, whatever you do, do not cook the noodles in the broth! You really do need to cook them separately, drain them, cool them, rub them with your fingers, and only then add them to the soup. Trust me, it makes a big difference.
Ingredients (for two)
- Udon Noodles – 200 g. (use dry udon, avoid the “fresh” pre-cooked kind you sometimes see in Asian stores)
- Napa Cabbage – a few leaves
- Spring Onion – one
- Konbu – one small section
- Eggs – two
- Dashi – 3 teaspoons
- Sake – one tablespoon
- Soy sauce – one teaspoon
- Salt – one teaspoon
- Tenkasu – tempura bits
- Chop the napa cabbage horizontally, thin
- Chop the spring onion
Set up two separate pots, one large one (to cook the noodles), the other one smaller (to make the soup)
- Fill the large pot with water and bring to a boil
- Cook the noodles for two minutes less than the instructions in the package suggest. (Usually the package says to cook the udon 12 minutes – if so, cook it for 10.) Do not add salt to the cooking water, Udon is already salted.
- When the Udon is finished cooking, drain it and rinse it with cold water. Use your hands to rub off the slimy residue (after this udon becomes “al dente”).
- Shake well in the strainer to get rid of excess water. Set aside.
- Put two cups of cold water in the smaller pot, place a piece of konbu in it, then bring it to a boil
- Once the smaller pot boils, add three teaspoons of dashi, the tablespoon of sake, the teaspoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of salt. The broth for Udon soup should have more dashi and be saltier than the broth for osuimono.
- Add the napa cabbage
- Add the now cool udon into the broth.
- Once the broth boils again, crack open the two eggs and pour them over the Udon – be sure the yolks are a few centimeters apart so they can be served separately
- Add the spring onions
- Cover and cook over a low fire for 1 or 2 minutes – ideally, the egg yolk should still be runny at the end of the process
- Ladle the broth and noodles onto large bowls, then place one egg yolk on top of each bowl. (That’ll be the “moon” we’re watching!) Be very careful to keep the egg yolks intact.
- Sprinkle with tenkasu if you like.
- Serve right away: udon needs be eaten hot.
click to enlarge
One last “cultural” note. I know it horrifies Western people, but to eat Udon properly you have to slurp it! There is a reason for this: it helps you airate the very hot noodles as you eat them, which keeps you from burning the roof of your mouth at the same time it accentuates the taste of the broth.
Give it a try!
Today, we slurped this udon for lunch. Itadakimasu!