Tag Archives: Udon

New beginnings, a new day, it’s Groundhog Day?

3 Feb

It’s been quite a while, dear reader, and my life was quickly overrun with various changes. Our beloved dog passed away, and I started a new job involving a longer commute, and different hours.

Of course, my blog suffered dearly, as I was unable to juggle everything as gracefully as I hoped.

Needless to say… A small triumph, despite the blizzard that whipped past the region last week, dumping 2 feet of snow, or the snow-sleet-freezing rain-snow fiesta that blanketed the area again…. I managed to pack my own bento today, inspired by a mouthwatering piece from Serious Eats I’ve salivated over the past few month.

I followed the basic steps – layering cooked udon noodles (I started with kanmen or dried noodles) and added blanched snow peas, carrots, scallions, a generous bit of roast chicken from Makinajian Poultry Farm – their herb roasted chicken has the most deliciously aromatic skin and juicy meat – and a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon, mushroom into my trusty Nissan Thermos.

Lunchtime came, and I filled the thermos with hot water, resealed the goodness for four (long) minutes, and voila!!

The photos truly are snapshots of the moment – however, they don’t capture my anxious moments before opening up the container revealing my long, anticipated udon lunch!!

I’ve had a few unsuccessful batches, where I sadly ate my mistakes – underseasoned soup, poorly drained noodles resulting in a gelatinous mess at the bottom, raw vegetables that didn’t seem to warm up despite the amount of time I kept the lid on…..

However this time, dear reader, it was a success!!





Comfort is a bowl away

16 Oct

After watching a mouth-watering episode of their favorite cartoon, Anpanman featuring a character flying in a ramen-bowl, the girls asked in unison, “We want men-men!”

Didn’t have ramen, but a bowl of udon in soup, topped with turkey soboro, blanched hakusai or Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, blanched carrots, narutomaki and cooked egg will just have to do!!

A weekend classic for the girls of the household…


Men men with soup marshmallows

27 Feb

The girls love their noodles, and we continue with our tradition of weekend noodles.

This weekend, Uncle K__ had come over – and for Papa, some Japanese beer, and for Mama, a most appreciated tub of cabbage kimchi

A quick soup base made with the leftover broth from nabe or hotpot earlier in the week was gussied up with a leftover chicken drumstick (already cooked), shiitake powder, grated ginger, grated daikon, and a  little salt.  

I then added thinly sliced carrots, thinly sliced daikon root, napa cabbage cut into 1-inch slices, simmered until tender.  By this time, the chicken drumstick meat is falling off the bones – and I shred the pieces, removing the skin and bones.  I lower the heat to low, and drop an egg into the soup to poach.  I find a frozen package of hanpen, and add it to gently warm up and fluff up in the broth.

In a separate pot filled with water, and brought to boil, the noodles are added.  These are the frozen udon noodles in the freezer section – and when they defrost, they are deliciously chewy and tender.

Once the noodles are done, I add them to the bowl.  I then scoop out the items that are done – the cooked carrots, daikon, egg (gently scooping out with a ladle) and the hanpen.  I blanch some scallions in the broth, while cutting up the raw white part into smaller pieces. 

I add a little bit of kimchi, as it is spicy – just a bit for taste, and ladle the soup over everything.  I garnish the bowl with the chopped scallion bits.  A quick drizzle of ponzu, and we’re ready to eat.

I confess – not the most elegant or traditional meal, but it’s a quick, comforting and hearty meal that everyone loves.  Not to mention, Uncle K___ certainly appreciated it after a late night of catching up with Papa.

The girls loved the hanpen, calling it soup marshmallows.  They are fluffy, savory bits that absorb the soup, and were a great hit.

Day 2 of the new 2011 school year

8 Sep

My daughter had a wonderful day yesterday, and she told me she enjoyed her bento.  “Mama, I liked my bento very much.  Can you make another one for tomorrow?” she asked.  The little one piped up, “A__ too, me too, bento!”  Sometimes I pack a small bento for my little one on the weekends to snack on while I am at Japanese school with my older daughter, and she happily points to it and says, “Mine!  My bento!”

Today, I packed the following items:

Grilled chicken drumstick – pre-seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Blanched broccoli, with some katsuobushi and a few drops of soy sauce for flavor

Boiled quail eggs (conventional)

Roasted Chioggi beets in plane shapes

Onigiri with steamed multi-grain (white, brown, millet, quinoa, wheat berries and barley) with toasted white sesame seeds and a little salt mixed in before I formed the onigiri.  Center is okaka (katsuobushi seasoned with soy sauce).  I’ll have to find a different filling for next week.

Two slices cucumber

Small snack container with cherries for dessert

My daughter asked for udon noodles (thick, white, wheat noodles) in soup for lunch.  I still haven’t figured out the most efficient way to transport these without having a complex assembling process at lunch… The issue being that the noodles will absorb all the soup if they are left in a container for too long.

Over the weekend, I had made udon noodles in a shiitake mushroom stock garnished with blanched watercress, carrots, napa cabbage, poached egg and an informal tablespoon of mabo-dofu (this version had sautéed ground turkey, bunashimeji mushrooms, tofu, minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped scallions, simmered in stock and seasoned with miso) left over from an earlier dinner.  I topped it off with chopped scallions from the garden.

Dear reader, any good ideas to transport this?

First weekend of June

7 Jun

The past Saturday was another 6 hour school day, so I packed a late-morning snack, as well as the main bento for her lunch.

Distractions often derail a smooth meal – so I packed easy “nibbles” for her snack.

Boiled egg in a teddy bear shape

Boiled turkey meatball – I had made a quick nabe or hot-pot for Friday dinner, where I essentially cooked vegetables (napa cabbage, spinach leaves, watercress and maitake mushrooms), tofu, udon (conventional) and ground turkey meatballs in a shiitake stock.  I brought a wide pot’s worth of water (with dehydrated shiitake mushrooms) and two tablespoons of ground shiitake powder to a boil.  I then added the tofu, first, and then dropped the turkey meatballs (grated ginger, grated 1/2 onion, flax seeds) and cooked them in the boiling stock.  When the turkey meatballs were cooked (about 7 minutes), I lowered the heat to low, and added the vegetables.  I put the cooked vegetables, tofu and meatballs into a bowl with a little ponzu (soy sauce and fresh lemon juice) and sesame seeds for flavor.  I then added the frozen udon noodles, and allowed them to gently defrost and cook – this doesn’t take too long.  Once the girls were done with their first bowl, I served them the cooked noodles with more vegetables, and used the stock to create a quick soup.  It was seasoned with a little soy sauce, salt, and some fresh grated ginger and chopped scallions.

Green grapes

Grape tomatoes

Celery Sticks

For the main lunch box, I made:

Onigiri with an okaka center.

Roasted beets cut into star shapes

Blanched, well-drained, and chopped spinach, with a katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes) topping with a little ponzu sauce

Boiled mini-hot dog

Grape tomatoes

Strawberries (not shown)

I showed my daughter both meals before school, and she clapped her hands when she saw I had included the mini-sausages. 

I do know at her snack time, she opened both her lunch boxes, and triumphantly ate her mini-sausage FIRST.

Then she mosey-ed through her other lunch items, methodically, and slowly.

Back to school Monday with a fish tale to tell

13 Apr

The weekend brought a bit of excitement to our lives.  My older daughter enjoyed her second day at Japanese school, and I was starting to see semblance of a routine for Saturdays.

We then had our nephew come to stay with us – as my sister-in-law headed into the hospital in preparation for the girls’ newest cousin’s arrival… 

This was a bit exciting for my older daughter – but the little one was still recovering from the bug she had on Thursday.  Hopefully my nephew didn’t pick the bug up during his stay with us.

Sunday morning brought us the usual noodle routine.  Both girls had a bowl of udon (wheat noodles) with poached egg, spinach, carrots, scallions with a shiitake based soup.  I gave my nephew a small amount, but cut his noodles into small pieces, as he probably wouldn’t know how to eat the noodles.

My brother-in-law, who missed seeing his son on Saturday, stopped by to see him.  Before I go further, just a few points to clarify.  My husband is as “American pie” as they come – and until he met me, he probably ate Chinese food (never Japanese food), maybe once a year, and never utilized chopsticks.  Now, fifteen years later, he may not eat as much Asian food as I wish – but he is very supportive of my maintaining and incorporating Asian, especially Japanese culture into our children’s lives, and frankly, his chopstick holding skills are amazing.  In Japan, where often, image is important, proper chopstick etiquette and positioning is crucial.  I’ve taught him well! (Rather, he learned efficiently and correctly!)

Back to my brother-in-law.  He is as American as they come, and is half Italian and half Irish.  I have a suspicion I am probably one of the few non-American, non-Caucasian people he’s come into close contact with, and I am fairly certain, from a food standpoint, he is extremely conservative and reluctant to try anything different.  Case in point – at my husband’s younger brother’s birthday dinner, I decided to order the whole roasted branzino over sautéed spinach.  My husband doesn’t order whole fish – but I’ve grown up being served whole fish, and I have no hesitation ordering this at a restaurant.  Once the fish arrived, I could see my brother-in-law visibly becoming uncomfortable (I was sitting diagonally across from him) and soon, there was a fortress of menus shielding him from seeing the fish on my plate.  At the time, I was slightly amused, but more annoyed – as this reminded me back to my childhood when non-Japanese playmates and school mates would look at me in horror when I told them I had sushi for dinner.

Jump forward to Sunday morning.  I offered the children a handful of niboshi to hold them over until the soup was done.  Both girls happily munched on the little fish, similar to little slivers of potato sticks.  My nephew followed suit, and munched on the fish – and was enjoying the new food.

My brother-in-law arrived, and joined us in the kitchen.  He asked what I gave them for breakfast, so I told him, “Japanese noodle soup with a little egg, spinach, carrots and scallions.”  My nephew had a few bites to eat, and then sat at the table watching his cousins, and babbling in his 18 month old language.  I told him, “Look, he likes these,” and offered my nephew another niboshi.  My brother-in-law looked perplexed, and asked, “What is that?”  I told him, “It’s dried fish – dried baby sardines.  They are very healthy, and high in calcium.”  He was a bit taken aback, and asked my husband, “You eat that?”  My husband replied, “I don’t – but the kids eat it.”  My brother-in-law continued, “Those are something my dad and I would go fishing with…”

I didn’t really think much of the discussion at the time.

My brother-in-law then asked, “Can I make cheese on toast for him?”  I was slightly annoyed, but responded, “Sure.  But you’re going to have to make it, because that isn’t really part of my repertoire.”  He then proceeded to toast a slice of bread with American cheese on top, and offered it to my nephew.  My nephew turned his nose up at the bits of bread, and tapped the kitchen table with his soup spoon.

Perhaps it was the clash of cultures that got me a little riled up in my kitchen that Sunday morning.  Perhaps it was the fact I had thoughtfully made breakfast for the kids – and was only trying to expand my nephew’s horizons – and yet, here was my brother-in-law in my own kitchen, making something he thought was better for his toddler – while one part of my brain was telling me, hey, you’ll be able to exposure your nephew(s) to a larger world through food, for free!! – while the other part of my brain was spewing, “PROCESSED CHEESE (think – fat) on CARBS??”

The kicker to the story was when I later found out, he reported back to my sister-in-law (who was in labor) and my mother-in-law, I had offered fish bait for breakfast to his son.  Fish bait?? Ex-cuuuse, me.  Aren’t you half Italian – specifically Sicilian, where fish, including sardines are used often and enjoyed?

Boy – I have a lot of work to do to ensure my children are continued to be exposed to the infinite world of multicultural and healthy eating!!

My husband tried to assuage me as I started venting, “How dare he call my food, fish bait!  One man’s fish bait, another’s food!”  “At least he didn’t take it away from our nephew, you know,” he said.

True, but NOW, I hope I get to have my nephews over more often so I can  expand their food and cultural horizons!

Monday’s lunch was:

Turkey-flax-vegetable-oatmeal-meatballs, baked

Trader Joe’s tortellini (conventional) with marinara sauce

Cucumber sticks, red pepper slices

Roasted beets in heart shapes

Men men = Noodles = comfort food

21 Mar

As many of you know by now, I try to use Japanese seasonings and flavors in my cooking.  Growing up, my mother often laughed at how I’d try to use excessive amounts of bold seasoning – possibly trying to assert my “American-ness” in my cooking, and defying the common-sense rules of Japanese cooking (subtle, reserved, multi-faceted and layered) … and manners.

These days, I’ve come to embrace my Japanese heritage, and try very hard to incorporate certain items into my girls’ lives. 

One of these items – is the noodle, or as my girls call them, “men men!!”

My husband prefers eggs, bacon and toast, or eggs, bacon and waffles on a weekend morning.  Quite often, the thought of lugging the waffle maker out of its place in the laundry room (space hog results in items being sent off into Siberia) or having to wipe down the stove-floor-counter-sink after a greasy fry-up gives me heartburn.  I’ll try to negotiate with him to just… oh, have a fried egg and toast (with HP sauce) and a glass of cold milk in a frosty glass.

I grew up having noodles on the weekends – whether it be udon, soba, champon, ramenmy father in charge of Sunday breakfast always resulted in long strands of dough in various styles.  My favorites were noodles served in broths – and I especially loved when my father would make udon or soba noodles, and then provide a soup thickened with katakuriko, or what I called “Doro Doro sou-pu.” I especially liked when my father added a cooked, scrambled egg, or tamagotoji, as well as some other items, such as narutomaki fish cakes, scallions, and vegetables. 

My girls also love noodles for breakfast, and often, “Mama Mennn mennn!” is what I would wake up to on the weekends.

This weekend, they had udon noodles in soup with blanched spinach, carrots, poached egg, scallions, and (not pictured here) wakameThe older one deftly captures each noodle and vegetable with her chopsticks, while the little one snags the end of a noodle with her chopsticks, and grabs them with her other hand. 

The soup is made by adding shiitake powder, dried shiitake, soy sauce, a little salt, and a little sugar to a small pot of water.  I slowly bring this to almost boiling, but then, turn down the heat so the soup doesn’t actually boil.  I technically need to leave the shiitake mushrooms to reconstitute in room temperature water, but I never seem to have the time, so I take short cuts.  Sometimes I’ll add a piece of konbu, or kelp, and other times, katsuobushi

For Saturday’s version, I had a pot of boiling water for the noodles only, and I cooked the veggies and the egg in the soup pot. 

Between exclamations of “Mama atsuii! (hot!)” and blowing on the noodles to cool them off, the girls were content and full. 

**Persephone, a wonderful culinary explorer has featured dashi on her blog, and I suggest you check it out for some good basics.