I always associate big bowls of steaming hot udon soup as a meal meant to be eaten alone. Japanese noodle bars always have long counter spaces which make them perfect for solo dining and the service is very perfunctory yet careful without the chit-chat. Oh, and did I forget to mention the slurping? Really, it’s hard to eat those long chewy noodles without a slurp or two. It’s an exercise in grace getting the noodles from your chopsticks to your mouth without so much as a drop of broth on the page of the book you’ve just borrowed from the library. And I guess it’s because the library is right across from the noodle bar I like the best, that I find such pleasure in my solitary bowl of udon. For me, udon and books go hand in hand. Sure, I’ve gone for noodles with friends and often times, Cornelius and I have taken bowls of take out soup to eat at home, but somehow it’s not the same. Sitting at the counter (a window seat is always best!) on a cold day with a big bowl of Charsiu Ramen with Shoyu broth is restorative. Maybe it’s just about spending some quiet time in my own head, reading a good book, people watching and not so much minding the grayness outside that makes the whole experience seem so special. Who knew sitting at a counter eating noodles could do so much for a girl?
I came up with the recipe below on Monday after enjoying a lovely solo bowl of udon on Saturday with only my ipod, Run DMC, and the local entertainment rag for company. This recipe turned out amazingly well and if I could eat it every week, I’d be one very happy person. If you have corn or bean sprouts or spinach on hand, add it in! Don’t like salmon? Top with tofu, shrimp or chicken. Don’t sweat it.
udon soup with grilled salmon
1 t maple syrup
1 T soy sauce
juice from 1/2 lime
a few dashes of hot sauce
a few dashes of sesame oil
1 salmon steak
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 knuckle sized piece of ginger, grated
2 stalks celery, sliced on the diagonal
1 green pepper, large dice
1 c broccoli florets
4 c vegetable broth
3 scallions, large chop
2 individual packets of miso (about 2 large tablespoons worth)
2 individual packets of udon noodles
juice from 1/2 lime with zest
1. In a shallow bowl combine the first 5 ingredients and mix well. Add the salmon steak to the bowl and brush the sauce mixture over the salmon. Let sit for 30 minutes. Grill the salmon in a dry cast iron skillet until done, about 3-4 minutes per side depending on thickness. Set aside.
2. Into a large pot, add a few dashes of sesame oil and add in the garlic, ginger, celery, green pepper and broccoli. Stir about until all the vegetables are slightly glistening and then add in the broth. Bring to a boil and add in the udon noodles, miso and scallions. Turn down the heat, stir to break apart miso and let the noodles cook for about 3 minutes or so. Turn off heat and squeeze in the lime juice and add the zest.
3. With tongs, add in the noodles and vegetables to 2 very large soup bowls. Pour in broth, but don’t fill the bowl….keep the broth under the noodles as we want to create a noodle-y cushion for the salmon. Divide the salmon into 2 pieces and place on top of noodles, 1 hunk of salmon for each bowl. Now slurp away to your hearts content!