As often happens, I was sidetracked
by noticing something I was not looking for.
Back in October I started looking for wafuu spaghetti recipes: Italian spaghetti sauced (or topped) with Japanese flavors. Mentaiko spaghetti, topped with fish eggs, nori, and shiso is a fine example.
Hijiki and shiitake spaghetti uses foods that are pantry items in a Japanese kitchen. Spaghetti Napolitan, while not wafuu, is a Japanese adaptation of Western spaghetti. Spicy Eggplant Ja-Ja-Men Udon is Japanese pasta with a Japanese adaptation of Bolognese sauce. Curry udon is also Japanese pasta with a Western sauce—ah! you say, “Curry is from India!” but remember that curry came to Japan by way of the British who had changed the recipe to suit their own milder tastes. Crab nabeyaki udon is Japanese noodles with a Japanese sauce.
You see the combinations? Some thing from here, another from there, adapting a dish to suit specific tastes… a loving evolution of adding and changing, and making food that is delicious especially for the diner!
Perhaps I was not so much diverted, as led to a new idea. While browsing, I kept ignoring references to kimchi udon. They had nothing to do with the wafuu spaghetti I was interested in. Then once upon a time (well, one grocery shopping day), some cartons of kimchi caught my eye. The kimchi was made and packaged by a very nice local Korean restaurant. As I was trying to imagine kimchi on noodles, a container hopped itself into my cart! Voila!! I had a misson: Kimchi Udon!
It makes sense that the Japanese would borrow flavors from their near neighbor Korea. The simplest recipes were kimchi yaki-udon— just stir-frying cooked udon with coarsely chopped cabbage kimchi. Garlic, onions, and ginger might be added for more flavor, and some included thinly sliced pork. I’m sure such a meal would be grand, but it’s winter and I wanted something warmer. I found several Korean stews called “kimchi jigae (김치 찌개),” and similar, though less spicy Japanese recipes. The liquid can be chicken stock or dashi, cooked with kimchi, pork, and a variety of vegetables. Following is my delicious experiment.
my own recipe
serves 4 generously
my own recipe
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- ½ onion, thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 12 ounces thinly sliced pork loin (many recipes I found wanted pork belly)
- 1 Tablespoon toban jiang (Japanese chili bean paste)
- 1 cup kimchi, coarsely chopped with juice
- 6 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ mirin
- 8 ounces enoki mushrooms (they looked so much nicer than the shiitake I’d set out to buy)
- 6 ounces firm tofu (I rather wish I’d bought soft silken tofu)
- 2 Tablespoons miso
- A handful of Shingiku blanched and cut to bite-size (edible chrysanthemum leaves)
- 2 to 3 thinly sliced green onions
- 1 pound dry udon
Heat a thick bottomed saucepan and add the oil. Fry the onion slices until they begin to become translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and stir until they become fragrant. Add the thinly sliced pork and stir until the color changes. Add the toban jiang and chopped kimchi and stir well to combine.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and tofu.
Cook the udon according to package directions. Rinse.
Add the soy sauce, mirin, miso, and shingiku. Heat to a simmer.
Divide the noodles among 4 bowls, and add the soup. Garnish with green onions.