Japanese Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Japanese Home Style Cooking by Better Home Japan (Better Home Publishing House, 1986)
There are as many versions of chicken soup as there are cooks, and this one from Japan has its own unique twists on the familiar. In keeping with the Japanese style of artfully arranged dishes, everything is carefully composed in a bowl before adding the hot broth. Ingredients are chosen for their color and appearance as much as taste. If you are unable to find certain ingredients, then simply adapt what you have on hand, as well as what's in season.
Dashi stock is made from kombu kelp and dried bonito fish flakes; you may also find a bouillon-like version in ethnic markets. If you can't find it, a light chicken stock is the best, easiest replacement. Udon noodles are a type of thick, slightly stretchy wheat noodle. They're excellent in soup, as they have a texture and presence all their own, but any long, thick noodle will do. Kamaboko, a type of fish surimi, may be the toughest to find. Just skip it if you don't have anything similar.
- ¾ lb. dried udon noodles
- 4 small shiitake mushrooms
- 4 oz. chicken breast meat
- 1 inch length carrot
- 4 oz. spinach, chard, or other greens
- 2 eggs
- 2-inch piece kamaboko, cut into 4 pieces (optional)
- 5 cups dashi stock
- 6 tbsp. soy sauce
- 5 tbsp. mirin
- 1 tbsp. sake
- Salt, to taste
- Prepare the dashi stock, and season with the soy sauce and 4 tbsp. mirin. Keep warm while preparing the rest of the soup.
- Simmer the shiitake mushrooms in water or extra dashi stock until tender. If very large, cut the caps in halves or quarters. Trim the chicken into thin bite-size pieces, and cook in a covered saucepan with the sake, until just cooked through. Add more liquid if necessary, to prevent sticking and browning.
- Cut the carrot into 8 thin slices. If you have a small cookie cutter, you can cut the slices into flower or leaf shapes. Boil the slices for 1 minute in salted water to soften. Boil the spinach in the same water, until it just begins to wilt. Rinse with cold water, squeeze dry, and trim into inch-long pieces.
- Whisk the eggs with the remaining mirin and salt. Cook in a lightly greased nonstick skillet, until the egg has set into a flat omelet. Cut into 4 pieces.
- Cook the udon in plenty of boiling water until soft; the noodles should be more tender than traditional Italian pasta. Drain. Place the noodles in the bottom of 4 soup bowls, and arrange the soup ingredients over the top, making sure that all of the bright colors and shapes are visible. Pour the hot broth over everything, and serve immediately.