The usual quandary of what will I make for dinner tonight? I have been looking at several Japanese cookbooks and I started craving udon soup. Thinking about what ingredients I had in my kitchen, I decided on a seafood udon soup.
I usually have frozen shrimp in my freezer, but I also had a few bay scallops as well. I had some shiitaki mushrooms left over from Sunday’s dinner that I needed to use before they spoiled. I also had some heirloom carrots and napa cabbage. While those are fairly typical Japanese ingredients, I wanted something with a little more color and vitamins, so some leftover baby spinach went into the pot.
Note: This was basically a Japanese version of my refrigerator soup.
For last Sunday’s dinner, the recipe I was using marinated the mushrooms for three hour in soy sauce for three hours before grilling them. While I was going to boil my mushrooms I thought a little marinating might enhance their flavor. Using the same reasoning I thought I might marinate the carrots as well.
I almost always buy raw shrimp with the shells on. You never will know when you might want a quick shrimp stock or to boost the flavor of whatever stock you are making—in this case dashi. There are three methods of making dashi.
The quickest and easiest is to use HonDashi granules—1+ teaspoons per cup of water. I have always had trouble with this method, because my dashi comes out either too weak or too strong. There is also the problem that the granules are mostly salt and monosodium glutamate—first and second ingredient. While it is a natural substance, it is a compound that gives many Westerners a headache after they have consumed too much of it.
Note: You cannot entirely avoid monosodium glutamate, as it naturally occurs in tomatoes and many other foods.
The traditional method of making is to simmer kombu seaweed for ten minutes. You then simmering ½ oz. of dried bonito shavings per cup for ten minutes before straining out the solids. While this method is more work, it has the advantage of producing a soup base that does not contain any MSG.
3) A happy medium is to use what is basically a dashi teabag—DashiNoMoto—filled with ground kombu and bonito, as well as dried sardines and mackerel. You use one bag per three cups of water, which is simmered for ten minutes and then removed. While these bags contain a small amount of MSG—it is the last item on the ingredients list—it produces a complex flavorful broth.
Karl’s Shrimp and Scallop Udon Soup
6-8 shiitaki mushrooms
1 Tbs. Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbs. mirin
½ tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 heirloom carrot
1 Tbs. mirin
½ tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 lb. shrimp
½ lb. bay scallops
6 cups water (see the discussion above for how to make dashi)
5-6 fresh ginger, cut into coins
2 bags DashiNoMoto (or other method for making dashi)
2 Tbs. white miso dissolved in ¼ cup hot water
1 package (16 oz.) Inaka udon noodles
4-5 green onions
2 cups Napa cabbage (6-8 leaves)
1 cup spinach
1. Stem the mushrooms and put them in a small plastic bag.
2. Add the soy sauce, mirin, and grated ginger, seal the bag, and shake to coat the mushrooms.
3. Let the mushrooms marinate at least one hour.
4. Flip and shake the bag occasionally to re-coat the mushrooms.
Tip: As they marinate the sauces are absorbed by the shiitaki.
5. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the carrot into ribbons.
6. Place the carrot ribbons in a small bowl and add the mirin and grated ginger.
7. Let the carrots marinate for at least one hour.
8. Peel the shrimp and put the shells and the ginger coins in a pot with 6 cups of water.
Note: Reserve the shrimp meat and scallops in a cover bowl in the refrigerator.
9. Add the ingredients to turn the water in the pot into dashi.
Note: Choose the method above (in the discussion) which suits your preferences.
10. While the dashi is simmering, cook your noodles in plenty of water for ten minutes.
Tip: Rinse the cooked noodles in cool water to prevent them from overcooking or sticking together.
11. Strain out the solids from the soup stock.
Tip: Recover the ginger coins and return them to the pot.
Note: The dashi can be stored at this point overnight, if necessary.
12. Put the miso in a small cup and mix in some hot water or some of the dashi.
Tip: Miso comes as a very thick paste. By mixing it with a hot liquid you avoid ending up with undissolved lumps of miso at the bottom of your soup.
Note: Some miso is very course and has bits of soy beans mixed into the paste. Some cooks strain out the chunks before using it in a soup. Thinning it out make is easier to do this.
13. Cut the white parts of the green onions into 1½ -2 inch pieces.
14. Finely slice the green parts and set them aside separately.
15. Cut the cabbage leaves into 1-2 inch pieces.
16. Bring the soup to a boil and stir in the miso and the shiitaki with all of its sauce.
17. Add the white parts of the green onions and the cabbage and continue simmer for another minute.
18. Add the shrimp, scallops, and the carrots with the marinade and simmer for two minutes more.
19. Place portions of the udon in large individual bowls.
Tip: If the noodles are cold you may pour hot water into each bowl to reheat them and then drain off the water just before adding the soup.
20. Stir the spinach into the soup and pour the soup over the noodles.
Tip: Distribute the solid bits evenly between the bowls.
Note: Arrange some of the shrimp, scallops and mushrooms decoratively on top of the noodles and vegetables.
21. Garnish the udon soup with the sliced green onion tops.