Kenchin Udon: Chicken Noodle Soup

The other day I was right in the middle of making some rice cakes when I suddenly felt like I had tried to swallow a hedgehog. That vociferous seasonal cold that my sister was still shaking off had gotten its claws into me. I don't like to mention it, since I don't want to jinx myself, but I am just coming off of a record year and four months of being cold and flu free. It has been wonderful, but now it was time to pay the piper, damn him. I quickly finished off my rice cakes (not even caring that I burned the last batch) and climbed into bed from whence I did not emerge for three days. 

On the last day I woke up feeling good enough to spend a few hours in the kitchen (and even to operate a camera). I wanted chicken noodle soup and I had a particular recipe in mind. From the new cookbook that I have been enjoying, A Cooks Journey to Japan by Sarah Marx Feldner, I had espied this beautiful soup a few weeks ago. I thought I would make it the next time someone on the farm was sick, unfortunately it turned out to be me. The English title of the soup was Get-Well-Soon Udon (can you see why it called to me?) and the Japanese title was Kenchin Udon.

Kenchin is a type of soup that originated as a vegan meal in buddhist temples. It can be best described as a hearty vegetable soup, though today it has many varieties, some vegetarian and others not so much. This recipe falls into the not so much category as it is made with dashi (of the fishy persuasion) and has chicken in it. Among the other ingredients are tofu, leeks, daikon radishes, carrots and shiitake. 

Udon are thick and chewy wheat noodles that have been traditional in Japan since the twelve hundreds. I must say they make a perfect noodle for chicken soup. I used them before for udon curry and was once again totally satisfied by their simple, delicious flavor. 

This was the perfect comfort food for my cold and I even used my kitty cat bowl to eat it (you can just see the tops of its ears and tip of its tail in the photo). After eating, I really did feel a lot better. I've had a couple different people tell me that science has proven that chicken soup really does help fight a cold, and I can well believe it. If nothing else, it boosts your mood which can't help but make you feel better. (For the same reason I'm also a huge believer in the healing power of musicals, I watched Grease twice this weekend.)

Until next time, if you're healthy, avoid people with colds! If you're already sick, curl up with a hot bowl of soup.