There comes a time, usually at the end of a pay period, when originality blossoms in the kitchen. Or, at least, in my kitchen anyway. I had a mish-mash of ingredients in fridge and cupboard and really wasn’t sure how to put them together. I knew that I wanted to make soup and I could have gone the easy route and have thrown together a pot of lentil soup but I just didn’t have the appetite for it. So I dug deeper. More than a month ago I made a trip to the nearby Asian grocery. It’s a place full of wonder and mystery to a white girl from small-town Ontario. I move up and down the aisles with some trepidation as most of the time I’m entirely unsure of what the products are that I’m looking at. But, luckily for me, I have a stubborn streak and I’m determined to acquire knowledge of authentic Asian cuisine.
You see, I love it. When visiting a Thai, Japanese, or Vietnamese restaurant, I’m thoroughly seduced by the mouth-watering combinations of fresh herbs, exotic spices and oils, noodles, crisp vegetables and light meats or seafood. The scent of coriander alone makes me want to order every item on the menu. Not practical, I know, but a great temptation. So as I’m perusing the grocery aisles, some products remind me of certain dishes I’ve seen or ordered at a restaurant and I gleefully throw them into my cart. Once home, however, I eye the product suspiciously and wonder if at any time I can do it justice. So it gets pushed to the back of the fridge or the cupboard until I’m feel adventurous…or desperate.
Udon noodles were one of these products. They had been sitting on the top shelf of my fridge and greeted me every day, several times a day for weeks. Luckily they are well packaged and seem impermeable to deterioration. So today I timidly pulled them from their shelf and eyed the packaging trying to find the English counterpart to the Japanese characters. It was pretty simple. Bring water to a boil, throw in the noodles for 5 minutes, and drain. “Oh! I can do that!…But…what do I put with them?”
Naturally, there are hundreds of Udon soup recipes and many of them sounding absolutely delightful, but none that called for any ingredients that I had available…which was close to nothing. One called for egg. I had that. Another called for sliced vegetables (carrots and the like). I didn’t have those, but I did have green pepper fresh from the garden. Could work. One of the common ingredients was prawns. I had no such thing, but I had some left over chicken. Ok, not even close but if I was using chicken stock (bouillon cubes), then why not chicken? I’m sure what I came up with would make Udon soup aficionados curl their toes in disgust but I have to say, I enjoyed it and so did the kids – and that’s key! So I thought, why not share it with you? You might be able to make your own variation. Come on! Be creative!
Mother Hubbard’s Udon Soup
Udon noodles (Mine came in a bag with 4 packages. I used 2)
1. Put them in boiling water for 5 minutes and drain. Set aside.
Butter or margarine
2. Heat the butter in a frying pan and when simmering, add the eggs. Break the yolks immediately so they spread out over the whites. As the whites start to become solid, cut the egg into pieces and fry until golden. Remove and place to the side.
(use your imagination here or look up the traditional ingredients…often mushrooms, spinach, carrots, etc.)
Sesame oil (or any vegetable oil)
3. Heat a small amount of oil in the same frying pan used for the eggs to a high temperature. Once hot, throw in the other ingredients and quickly stir-fry until tender. You may want to add a little water for steam so they don’t burn or stick.
Chicken stock or bouillon.
4. Heat stock or boil water for bouillon. Figure on about 1 cup per soup bowl.
5. Place the noodles in deep bowls. On top of the noodles place the vegetables and meats (if any). Then add the egg. Finally, pour the chicken stock over and serve.
You can add salt, pepper, or whatever other spices you enjoy. We added a little Soya sauce to the mix which gave it a nice flavour.