A number of weeks back, I mentioned that I made this soup along with my sesame broccoli. Well, things got in the way, I cooked other things that I was excited to share with you, and I am just now getting back around to it.
Ultimately, I’m telling you – you should make this. It’s pretty simple, even if there are perhaps a few things on the ingredient list that might be new to you. Items such as bonito flakes, udon noodles, or sake. They’re worth seeking out, and even more so, they are pantry items, and so you can keep them for a long while.
Bonito flakes, or katsuobushi, are an item that is likely new to many that are not familiar with cooking Asian recipes. Bonito flakes are dried flakes of a variety of tuna, and are often used to make dashi, a variety of stock common in Japanese recipes. You can find them in some specialty grocery stores, any Asian market, and of course, online. (You can find anything online, honestly! It’s kind of awesome that this day in age, you can just about recreate a dish from any region of the world, just by ordering a few key spices or ingredients and having them delivered to your home.) Udon noodles are even easier to find – I’ve found them in many grocery stores. They are not gluten-free, so if you need a gluten-free version, substituting a gluten-free spaghetti noodle will give you a very close approximation of the real deal. But if gluten is no big deal for you, then udon noodles are fun. They’re especially soft without being mushy. (Of course, I’m a fan of any type of noodle soup, so an udon noodle soup is just my thing.) Lastly, sake should be an easy find – any place that sells a wide variety of wines should have sake. I’m not a big sake drinker, but I do have a bottle on hand for cooking. And for anyone that wants to come over and drink it for me. I aim to please my guests, after all.
Anyway, back to the soup. I do a semi-cheat with my broth in this recipe. It’s not a true dashi stock. It’s basically a souped-up chicken stock with some bonito flakes, ginger, mushroom and star anise. The addition of those few ingredients really do make an impact, however. The resulting broth is full of flavor and richness, and while there are lovely noodles, chicken, mushrooms and onions in the final soup, that broth becomes the star of the show. You could just about sip on that alone and be a happy camper.
But in an effort to also be full for a while, we add the filling parts to the soup. Chicken and shiitake mushrooms provide a meaty texture that contrasts well with the soft noodles and crisp green onion. Combine that with the umami of the broth, and you have comfort in a bowl. It’s perfect for lunch on a chilly, dreary day – and we’ve been having a lot of those lately!
- 4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 4 cups chicken stock (homemade or store-bought is fine)
- 1 c bonito flakes
- 1½ inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 6 pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 star anise
- 6 oz dried udon noodles (you can substitute gluten-free spaghetti for a gluten-free dish)
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sunflower oil or canola oil
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
- ¼ cup sake
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use gluten-free for a gluten-free dish)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup sliced green onion
- Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms, and slice the caps. Set the caps aside. In a large pot, add the mushroom stems, chicken stock, bonito flakes, ginger pieces, garlic cloves, and star anise. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain stock through a fine-meshed sieve. Set aside.
- Heat a pot of water to a boil, and cook udon noodles to the directions on the package. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, heat sesame and sunflower oil over medium heat. Add the reserved mushroom caps to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until they start to soften. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for another minute. Add sake and cook, stirring, until evaporated. Add the chicken, the reserved stock, the soy sauce, and honey. Bring to a very gentle boil and reduce to a simmer, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is heated through.
- Divide the cooked noodles among 3-4 bowls. Once the soup is thoroughly heated, divide among the bowls. Sprinkle green onions over the top of each bowl. Serve.