I love curry. It’s one of my favorite things to cook because not only is it delicious, but it’s easy. I’ve never made a type of curry that took more than a half hour to put together. And there are so many different types! From the coconut green curry that I grew up eating to the thick stew-like Japanese kind that I learned how to make a few years ago and eat about twice a month.
I treated myself to a new cookbook (Japanese Soul Cooking by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat). While flipping through it, trying to decide what to make first, I saw Udon Curry and was instantly intrigued. The recipe was pretty easy, and I love noodles. I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients. Frustration! The base of the broth is dashi, a stock made from kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. I’ve made it before, but apparently I had gone to another town to get bonito, because neither of the shops where I live had it. So after work I jumped in the car and raced off to the neighboring town, twenty minutes away. They have a pretty decent natural food store that I thought probably carried bonito. Alas, they close at 5:30 and I didn’t get there until 6. This would be the case everyday, because I always leave work at the same time and I currently work seven days a week.
I called my mother and asked her if she was heading that way anytime soon. She said no, but luckily I told her what I needed because she ended up having to go to town that day by surprise. Yay, the food gods were with me.
Bonito is a delicious product. Dried tuna that has been smoked, aged and shaved in to fine flakes. I personally like to eat them with rice, but they are in a lot of different Japanese recipes. From now on, I’m going to keep a stock of them in my cupboard. Together with kombu, which comes in kelp like dried pieces, you get dashi stock.
If you make dashi stock and are disappointed because it is the same shade and thinness of camomile tea, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be like that. Though it is mild, its packed with umami, that almost undefinable flavor that the Japanese have perfected.
Making dashi is a sure way to get you in the cooking mood, boiling it on the stove top fills the whole house with a sea smell, that is strangely refreshing and mouth watering. After the dashi was done, I realized that one of the ingredients in the recipe is a kaeshi sauce, made from soy sauce, sugar and mirin, which I was supposed to make several days ago so it could strengthen. Oops, my dish wasn’t going to be 100% accurate.
Once I had mixed my dashi and the bastardized kaeshi, I cooked the udon. I used the frozen type, which is already cooked. They had both frozen and dried at the store, but the already cooked noodles looked so appetizing. They were thick and white and looked like they would have a great texture. Cooking them was super easy, cut open package, put noodles in boiling water, wait until the water starts to boil again, drain, place in bowls and set aside. Easy.
The recipe called for a pound of pork belly, but I don’t eat pork or other pig based meats, so I used chicken instead. (It’s okay, because the recipe said I could) I sautéed the chicken with onions then added the curry powder, then the dashi and kaeshi. To thicken it, just a tad, the recipe called for potato starch. I love potato starch, because I am allergic to corn, so I always have some on hand.
Once everything was finished cooking, I divided the chicken and onions between bowls and poured broth over it. Garnished with some scallions the dish looked exquisite and the smell was beyond wonderful!
I must confess that I am not a huge soup person. When I eat soup, I pour it over rice, so it’s more like a stew. I just don’t like drinking my dinner. So it is no small matter that I went back just to get more broth. It was so good! The noodles were chewy and tasty, the curry understated but rich, and the broth was bursting with umami.
My first udon dish was a total success and I highly recommend the cookbook. I can’t wait to try another recipe from it.
Side note: I didn’t have anymore udon noodles the next day, but had leftover broth, so I poured it over fresh rice for lunch. Also delicious!
Watch the video!