As you may have noticed, chilled noodles are a summertime favorite in Japan: an understandable reaction to the oppressive heat that falls over the country at this time of year. This version is not too different from Hiyashi somen, but you make it with thick Udon noodles instead of those thin Somen. The other difference is that the noodles, together with all the toppings, are put into each diner’s bowl from the start, rather than being taken little by little from common dishes at the table.
As toppings, you have some leeway to choose your favorite: a lot of people are fans of a Natto and Okra topping, others prefer roast pork, salad, grated daikon and so on. Me? I go for that soft-boiled egg…
Today, we made Hiyashi Udon because we were in a bit of a hurry and didn’t want to spend too long cooking. Another plus: here’s a dish you can make in 20 minutes flat. To save even more time, you could even use the same sauce you made for Somen on your Hiyashi Udon, but I prepared a slightly different sauce today.
There’s a reason you usually don’t see aubergine recipes here: sadly, I have a pretty nasty food allergy to them. It’s terrible, because I was a huge fan until they started to make me ill, about three years ago. Today, though, I’ve decided that Yakinasu is worth blogging even if I can’t have any of it for myself. So here’s a recipe I made for some dinner guests last night.
As the name suggests (Yaki=grill, Nasu=aubergine), this recipe is really simple: basically just aubergines you’ve grilled and peeled. That’s it! Simple as it is, the results will definitely surprise you: grilling eggplants this way gives them a deep, smoky, earthy taste you’re going to love.
This recipe is not difficult at all, but it does call for patience and finesse. Part of what’s challenging about it is that you need to keep those eggplants on the grill long past the point where they look basically ruined: it’s by letting the skin char completely that you get that deep, smoky flavor. The result is so delicate and delicious, I think it’s an excellent choice for guests.
Here’s a home favorite that comes with its own story. When I was growing up in Shiga Prefecture, our next door neighbor was a keen gardner. Inoue-san loved to grow these big, delicious daikon radishes, and he was so successful at it that he would often end up with more than his family could eat.
At first, he would politely knock on our door to offer some of the surplus. After a while, we realized we could just knock on his door and ask: during the season, he always used to have some around. Come to think of it, I can’t remember my mom ever buying daikon from the store during daikon season: if she wanted some, she would just send us next door to fetch some.
Of course, when Mr. Inoue gave us a plant, he would give us the whole plant, not just the root. The recipe below is the one my mom developed as a way of using up the bitter leaves we got on top of the pulpy tuber.
Now that I live in Canada, I can’t get daikon leaves so easily. Luckily, I’ve found that chicory – which doesn’t exist in Japan – makes a very good substitute for them. (Dirty little secret: I actually like this recipe better than the daikon-leaf version!)
Tonight, I’m falling back on this old family favorite, and getting all nostalgic about my dear neighbor Inoue-san in the process.
Like everybody else in Kansai, I’m udon-crazy: there’s no udon dish I don’t love. This particular way to make udon – basically a fast noodle stir fry – is as unpretentious as Japanese cooking gets: a casual dish served to the hungry masses, typically for lunch.
Usually, you would make yaki-udon with yakisoba sauce – a sweet-and-savory concoction close to the type of sauce we put on Japanese pancakes.
For this recipe, though, we do something a little different, relying on dashi. To make the seasoning, what we did is take some katsuobushi bonito flakes and some konbu and throw them in the blender!
Very easy…surprisingly delicious.