Jan’s favorite dish, when we go to a Japanese restaurant is kitsune udon. Udon is a thick wheat noodle that is a standard for a large variety of Japanese soups—both hot and cold. While kitsune refers to a fox, the distinguishing ingredient in this dish fried tofu—apparently the favorite food of the magical, Japanese, shape-shifting foxes.
Most of the recipes I found are fairly simple: Japanese noodle soup base, udon, and seasoned fried tofu—if you have ever had inarizushi, this is the pouch into which the rice is stuffed. Toppings for this soup are generally limited to some kamaboko—fish cake—green onions, and some chili powder. To make it a meal, I added some baby bok choi.
Japanese noodle soup base—mentsuyo—is dashi mixed with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Inari-agé—the fried tofu—is seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and sugar—you may be sensing a theme here, because mirin is simply sake with added sugar. One major adaptation I made was to reduce the amount of sugar, because I am diabetic.
While you can use the easily available can of inari-agé, for this dish it is better to buy or make fresh aburaage. This is a rectangular, thin slice of firm tofu that has been twice deep fried in oil. Once at a low temperature to drive off much of the liquid and a second time at a high heat to crisp and brown the surface. This tofu is then cooked a third time, in seasonings, to make inari-agé.
Karl’s Kitsune Udon
Ingredients for four servings
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sake
¼ cup water
1 tsp. sugar
3 cups water
1 packet dashi-no-moto
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
1 tsp. sugar
12-16 oz. udon noodles, it depends on how hungry your dinners are
12-16 baby bok choi stalks and leaves, whole
12-20 slices narutomaki (pink spiraled fish cake)
4 green onions, sliced on a long diagonal
1. Place the soy sauce, sake, water, and sugar in a small pot and bring it to a low simmer to dissolve the sugar.
2. Add the aburaage and simmer until almost all of the liquid is gone.
Tip: Flip the tofu pieces frequently, so that all sides get a chance to absorb the sauce.
3. Set the inari-agé aside to cool.
Tip: It was aburaage, now it is inari-agé.
Note: To make inarizushi you would simply cut the rectangle in half—crosswise—and open a pocket to stuff with sushi rice.
4. Set a large pot of water to a boil.
Note: This is for cooking the noodles later.
5. In a soup pot, make three cups of dashi by your preferred method.
Tip: My preference is to simmer a teabag of Dashi-no-moto in three cups of water for ten minutes.
Note: Do not bring the soup pot to a full boil.
6. Add the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
Tip: Continue simmering while you prepare the noodles.
7. Cook the noodles to al dente, 7-10 minutes.
Tip: The cooking time actually depends on how thick you udon noodles are, some are fairly thin and others are very thick. I prefer the thick ones.
8. When the noodles are almost done add the bok choi to the soup.
Tip: You want to cook the bok choi for only a minute or two.
9. Transfer the noodles to individual serving bowls.
10. Arrange the bok choi around the edges of the bowls.
11. Cut the inari-agé into pieces and arrange them over the noodles.
Note: Several of the recipes I looked at had you cut the inari-agé into squares. Jan found these difficult to handle with chopsticks—hot and floppy. Gombei—our favorite Japanese restaurant—cuts them into three pieces lengthwise. These are much easier to handle.
12. Arrange the fish cake and green onions over the bowls and pour the soup over all.
13. Serve hot with Shichimi togarashi on the side for those who want to spice things up.