Winter Moon Noodles
oyako udon in hot brothMoon viewing noodles are customarily eaten in Japan during Tsukimi, the festival honoring the first full moon of Autumn. This first month of 2014 had a special full moon: a “mini-moon,” which is the smallest full moon we will see this year. Astronomically, it is a full moon which is the furthest distance from Earth (apogee). The Moon was 16% smaller and 30 times dimmer than the super-moon which will occur in August.In honor of this occasion, we ate udon in hot broth topped with an egg. Tsukimi (moon-viewing) noodles include a whole raw egg in the center of the dish like a full moon surrounded by “clouds” of noodles. There are so many cautions against eating raw eggs in the U.S. (and I wanted to make this a complete meal) that we had soft boiled eggs, and chicken, with our noodles, thus making the dish “mother and child” noodles: oyako udon.

Hot Broth for Japanese Noodles
Japanese noodles in hot broth
This is a master recipe from Hiroko Shimbo’s book Hiroko’s American Kitchen to allow a cook to be creative with how to make Japanese noodles at home. You can use udon, soba, or somen noodles. The flavor is authentically Japanese, and the recipe provides a “master sauce” so you can make a lovely dinner in a quick hurry once you’ve stocked the “super sauce” in your freezer. If you love Japanese home-cooking, and Japanese noodles, then you need to learn this technique to get a delicious dinner on the table in minutes!

Summer Udon

Cool foods in summer, simply prepared, and served casually, make it possible for us to survive this extraordinary heat.

Cooking once for two meals, planned leftovers, makes the time spent in the kitchen efficient. Sandwiches come to mind as a second chance meal. And noodles are quick to prepare and easily transform a meat dish into a lovely soup or salad sort of meal very different from the original.

Packing Lunch

Lunch is something to look forward to at work, a convivial gathering to tell stories, jokes, and a bit of light gossip, as well as a time to eat. My workplace is dangerously near to Zingerman’s excellent but expensive food, so I try to bring something from home, usually leftovers. There are times when dinner was so delicious that there is nothing left for lunch, so I gave these noodles a try hoping they would be a pantry staple for a quick to fix packable zap-able meal.

Curry Udon
Having made lots of curry means having lots of curry left, all according to plan. Japanese curry is essentially a stew flavored with Japanese curry powder (turmeric, coriander, and cumin; hot spices are black pepper and cayenne; perhaps a hint of cinnamon and fennel), so it can be made as a meal with time-saving options. If you don’t add potatoes (which will become mushy), you can freeze it so you have a delicious meal, ready as fast as your microwave. And it’s the very best way to have curry udon! Bringing two of my favorite foods together in a meal that is quick to prepare is an opportunity I can’t resist.

Stuffed Lotus Root
What might be more natural to stuff than a lotus root?
It’s a mostly hollow rhizome (actually a stolon or stem) of the lotus flower that grows in muddy ponds throughout Asia. The air passages that run through the bulb form a lacy pattern that is revealed when the rhizome is peeled and sliced crosswise.
It would be more natural to stuff a fowl.
A turkey, for a tradition holiday meal! In clearing the fridge to make room for the big bird, I came across a lotus root which I’d planned to make karashi renkon—lotus root stuffed with ground shrimp or fish flavored with miso, ginger, and Japanese mustard. That recipe is included in this post, but I used ingredients on hand to make my own interesting version. If you are more adventurous, try my much revised recipe!

Noodles and Japanese Shells

Noodles—quick convenient comfort, ease and pleas-ing, satisfaction certain, and fine when cooking for me. While Mr. Tess was working in New York during the past two weeks, my meals centered on this flour and water paste: a blank canvas each time, with a palette of possibilities. Here is a selection of options to stimulate your imagination—the small pictures link to recipes which I’ve written about in the last year or so. And finally a tuna salad with echoes of Japanese flavors.

Udon with Hambagu Sauce

Not one to let a good hambagu languish in the fridge, nor one to eat the same meal day after day, I added a bit more beef stock to the pan, mashed the pattie to thicken the sauce, and boiled up some udon for a quick supper after work. Though it was made from leftovers, it was good enough to fool myself!
Oh, no recipe. Just a short trip into memory. A little sad, a little happy…

Tsukimi: Moon Viewing

My favorite moon-viewing noodle bowls were lovely glowing golden glass, beautiful as the full autumnal equinox moon.
Tsukimi (月見) refers to the Japanese tradition of holding parties to view the harvest moon. Moon viewing was introduced to Japan from China during the Nara (710-794) and Heian periods (794-1185).
Tsukimi udon (or soba) are hot noodles served with a raw egg on top to represent the moon.

Ja-ja-men: Japanese Spicey-Pork and Udon
I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.”
— Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest)
Jajamen is a recipe which came to Japan from China through Morioka city, the center of Iwate Prefecture. Morioka is famous for three major meins(麺(noodle dishes): wanko soba, Morioka reimen and Morioka jajamen: fat hot udon noodles with minced cucumber, leek and special miso.
Diners add vinegar, chili oil and garlic as they like. After eating, raw egg and reserved udon water are added with several seasonings. This is called Chiitan. (scroll down to see the pictures)