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Monday, May 16, 2016

Gluten-Free Udon Soup

It’s time to return the favor for my gal pal, the anachronistic Alice - a recipe I found over at www.japancanmix.com.

The blog is written by a woman who shares her recipes, and thoughts about what life is like for her as a foreigner with a Japanese husband and toddler... who lived in Japan for three years and are now all calling Canada home. She offers some great insight on Japan and, I think, life in general. 

As an aside, my son's Little League baseball team has two kids of Japanese background: one boy whose mom is Japanese and dad is Canadian, and the other whose parents and himself are all Japanese. I actually get to try out my crappy Japanese language skills on them all several times a week. Man, I suck. 

Anyhow, because I have had many readers say they dislike visiting other websites that I often link to, I have have re-created the www.japancanmix.com gluten-free udon noodle soup recipe below - adding commentary where applicable, and even where not applicable.

The recipe, as far as I know, is all the brainchild of www.japancanmix.com. Go check out her website afterwards.

Cooking...

Alice is, so she says, a very good cook. Since she doesn't lie much, I assume she is a good cook.

One of my favorite foods besides anything with eel, are udon noodles, especially in soup. I just love to noisily slurp them up knowing full well I'm going to end up with a spotted shirt.

So, here's a recipe for udon soup that is gluten-free, because, well, not everyone can eat glutton. I can, then again, I'm a glutton and love to eat.

The key to a gluten-free udon soup is to find gluten-free noodles. The recipe I saw said one could use rice noodles, though it appears from the image at the very top that she found nice and thick, gluten-free udon-style noodles.
Rice noodles.

Wheat-based udon noodles - big difference.
While that may not seem like it should be tasty, for any soup to have superb taste, one must have a great broth.

Try using large bonito flakes.  Failing that, dry dashi stock will work. Now, I can handle MSG, but many people can't, so when purchasing your dashi, look for what is appropriate for you.
Dashi stock.
The other option is to use small katsuo bonito flakes, which you soak in water, strain, and then use as the broth.

Katsuo bonito flakes - the bottom three letters spell katsuo: hiragana かつお
 Two liters of Gluten-Free Udon Soup (feeds 8 adults, or in reality 4... probably 2, if it tastes good):

Ingredients:
  • 2 liters of water (d'uh, I said we're making two liters of soup);
  • 10 large slices of bonito flakes (or 16 grams of dashi powder);
  • 9 tablespoons of gluten-free Japanese soy sauce;
  • 8 tablespoons of gluten-free sake or cooking sake. The key to adding booze into your food is not to put in anything you wouldn't want to drink on its own. Cooking sake being the exception. It's for cooking. It has an extra two to three percent salt added, making it unpalatable for drinking.
  • 4 tablespoons of white sugar.

Directions:
  1. Boil the water in a large pot - think spaghetti pot;
  2. Add bonito flakes and turn down the heat and let it cook for five minutes until the water turns a caramel color. However, if you instead use dashi powder, add slowly and stir until dissolved. Do NOT let the dashi cook in fast boiling water;
  3. Add the soy sauce and sake. Have a glass of sake yourself - again, the real stuff;
  4. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved;
  5. Gently boil the soup for at least 15 minutes;
  6. Open up that pack of noodles and follow the directions;
  7. Place noodles into bowls, pouring the broth over the noodles.
Serve and enjoy.

Personally, I would add other things: Perhaps slices of eel, green onion chopped, an egg - just drop it in and stir lightly - the heat will cook the egg. Then again, I'm an omnivore.
Unadon, aka eel atop udon noodles soup. I love it! Apparently the Japanese used to think that eating eel gave the man a kick in the sexual function bag... probably because it looks like a long penis.
For those who do not suffer ill effects from gluten-based products, substitute the gluten-free materials with regular ingredients...

This is cooking, so don't be afraid to experiment with ingredients... add cooked bacon, shrimp, a slice of a carrot... but keep in mind that, that this is a noodle soup... so don't crowd it with too many things or too many flavors. But there's nothing wrong with adding some bok choy!

I just happen to like eel with my udon soup.

I've been to many Asian grocery stores and have no difficulty in finding frozen eel in a 30cm long package. Udon noodles are also easy to find. Gluten-free noodles are tricky, which is why the recipe suggest rice noodles.

Anyhow... all told, this is a meal you can prepare in 30 minutes or less, that will give you an simple and satisfying, and hopefully non-stomach cramping taste of Japan.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

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