About 35 minutes
Feel healthy by devouring a bowl of this on a chilly winter day. The clear broth is Japanese-style dashi broth flavored with dried shiitake mushrooms, sake, and sea vegetables. The chewy udon noodles make this a hearty meal, I omit them when I have a photo shoot or fashion show coming up and it is just as good without them! Try serving alongside Japanese-style pickles for a little tang.
If you haven’t noticed yet, you’ll need a few Japanese specialty items for this soup. A trip to an Asian market is an experience in itself and I am planning to make a video on how to navigate the foreign terrain. It may be best to search for what you need online and show it to an employee once you arrive, if you’re new to these markets it will save you an hour of frustration.
Shiitake dashi broth:
2 quarts cold water
2 (4-inch) pieces kombu (kelp)
1/3 cup shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms (4-5 dried)
2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices fresh ginger, lightly crushed with the side of a knife
1/2 lb fresh udon noodles
1 large leek, washed well and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
1 1/2- 2 lbs kabocha (Asian pumpkin), unpeeled but seeded and sliced into 1 x 1-inch pieces
6-8 oz fried tofu pouches (aburage)
1/3 cup sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 scallions, sliced very thinly
Garnishes: Japanese hot pepper powder and additional shoyu
PREPARE THE broth: Pour 2 quarts of water into a large soup pot and add the kombu, shoe, sugar, dried shiitakes, and ginger. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat so that it gently simmers. Cook for 15 minutes.
Taste the broth and add a little more shoe if it’s not quite salty enough (but don’t overdo it- it’s easy to pour too much!). Remove the kombu, ginger, and mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to cool enough to handle, slice very thinly, and return to pot. Cover the pot and keep the broth warm over a low flame.
In a separate pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the udon noodles and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. Use chopsticks to pull apart the noodles while they are cooking. Transfer to a colander in the sink, rinse well with cold water, and allow the noodles to continue to drain. If at any point the noodles get too gummy and sticky, rinse with warm water to separate.
Meanwhile, add the leek, carrot, kabocha, and tofu to the broth. Simmer over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender and can be pierced easily with a fork. Stir in the sake and mirin.
Place portions of the rinsed udon noodles into large, deep, individual serving bowls. Use a slotted spoon to add vegetable chunks to the bowls, then a ladle to spoon on the stock. Sprinkle with chopped scallions. Eat with a large spoon and chopsticks.
TiP— Kabocha squash is an Asian pumpkin with a deep orange, nutty-flavored flesh that’s sweeter and slightly drier than regular pumpkin. The deep green, thin skin of kabocha squash cooks up tender and edible, so no need to peel. I had no problem finding it at the supermarket but, if you can’t find it, use peeled sugar pumpkin, acorn, delicate, or butternut. You’ll probably need to extend the cooking time for these squash, cooking an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the squash is tender.
— Kombu, dried giant kelp, is a standard ingredient in Japanese soups and condiments. When cooked in a stock or broth, it will unfold into a really big sheet. Don’t freak out, just let the stock cook as directed and then remove and discard the kelp when it’s done.
— Dried udon works just fine here, too. Cook the noodles according to the package directions and rinse in cold water, then keep them handy in a colander. Rinse in warm water when ready to add to the soup.