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Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring or kake/kitsune/chikara/everything udon

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It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, the first 70F +, sunny day of spring, and the 5th or 6th day of assured warmth that makes people finally feel sane to put away their winter clothes. This is the best part of New England summer: just the right temperature, sun, and humidity. It’s the kind of day that makes me question even my decision to spend the next 3 months in Japan, because there are really so many wonderful things to do outside in New England during the summer.

And of course, on a day likes this, it only makes sense for me to stay in and blog about it.

…before you judge me: yes, I am going outside. In a little bit. What’s the point of being an atheist if you can’t stay in on a Sunday morning?

On this first day of what feels like the official summer, I wanted to say goodbye to the few wonderful things about winter that are not possible in the summer: productivity, human radiator (aka husband/snuggler), oven-roasted/baked/fried dishes, hot pot, and noodle soup (the hot kind, because there are many wonderful cold noodle soups in Japan and Korea).

Noodle soup in the winter is universally an amazing thing that makes you feel like your life is still worth it. Noodle soup in the summer is a bit polarizing. In the US, we don’t seem to eat hot noodle soup once it gets just a bit over 60F outside. In Vietnam where I’m from, it can be 100+ and non-air-conditioned pho, bun, mi places will still be as crowded as ever. My mom said the rationale is that if you eat hot noodle soup, you will sweat and that helps your body cool down. I actually never noticed that until I came to the US, how a little bit counter-intuitive that is, but somehow it works for everyone in VN. D makes fun of me, calling me “losing my roots” (an idiom in Vietnamese) for no longer eating hot noodle soup in the summer. I’ve taken to eating cold noodle soup instead: Korea naengmyun, with literally a few ice cubes swimming in your noodle bowls, zaru soba, and nagashi somen, the dish that evokes summer in Japan as much as slices of watermelon do. I don’t care if I don’t sweat and cool my body down – the refreshing feeling of the cold noodles in your throat can only be beaten by ice-cream (but then again, nothing beats ice-cream.)

kitsune kake chikara whatever else udon

kitsune kake chikara whatever else udon

This was the udon bowl I made not too long ago. This is a mash-up of several kinds of traditional udon, but that’s because I’m an unsophisticated non-Japanese who likes everything. Kitsune udon, kake udon, chikara udon all have only a few ingredients that are signature to their kinds, but I decided that, hey, if I like them all, why not combine them?

Udon like this is extremely easy and simple, to the point of Sandra-Lee-embarrassing level. All you need is:

  • A pot of good dashi. Recipes abound on the Internet, but I usually just use one big piece of kombu, half a handful of dried anchovies with their heads cut off, a handful of bonito flake, and 2-3 dried shiitake mushroom, which you can also then eat.
  • Udon. Choose the fresh-frozen kind, as the texture is superior to dry udon. But dry udon will do, too.
  • 1 stick of naruto, the fish cake that has the pink swirl. Sliced into thin pieces.
  • Inariage (seasoned fried tofu pouch), sliced or left whole.
  • Toasted mochi (rice cakes that have been toasted a bit brown and is puffy)
  • Green onion, chopped up.
  • Soy sauce and mirin, to taste. Udon broth tends to be a bit sweet, sort of like how teriyaki sauce is not only salty but a bit sweet. But remember to taste it because your dashi would already be a bit salty, and the inari (fried tofu pouch) is already a bit sweet.

1. Make the dashi.

2. Cook the udon until it’s not too soft, but a bit beyond al dente.

3. Assemble!



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