Udon noodle soup with vegetables and tofu recipe

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Traditionally, the word kenchin is the name of a Japanese dish linked it to Kenchōji, a Zen temple built in Kamakura in 1253. Modern usage of the word on a menu conveys a much broader meaning, however: almost any stew, chowder, or soup noodle that includes at least one type of tōfu qualifies. In this version of kenchin udon, the topping for thick, slithery noodles is a hearty combination of two types of tōfu slivers of thin sheets of fried tōfu (abura agé) and bits of dried yuba and lots of root vegetables. The soup noodles are garnished with freshly grated ginger and chopped leafy greens and served piping hot a meal in a bowl.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 3 or 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 cups water
  • 1½ ounces daikon tops, kale, or other leafy greens, loosely tied in a bundle with kitchen twine
  • 3 sheets thin fried tofu
  • 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, preferably maitaké, trimmed and hand shredded into ½-inch lengths
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 slender carrot, about 2 ounces, scraped and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 ounces daikon, scraped and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon light-colored soy sauce
  • 2 sheets hoshi yuba, softened and coarsely shredded, or ¼ cup finely broken hoshi yuba (¼-inch bits)
  • 1½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • Cooked udon noodles, for serving hot
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
How to Make It
  1. Extract a stock from the dried shiitaké mushrooms: Break off the stems and set them aside for making stock on another occasion. Here you are using only the dried shiitaké caps to make a stock (and to cook later with the other vegetables). Soak the caps in the water in a bowl for at least 30 minutes and preferably for 1 hour or more. Remove the caps from the water and rinse them to remove any gritty material, then squeeze gently. Pour the soaking water through a fine-mesh strainer (or disposable coffee filter) into a clean bowl to remove unwanted bits that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Set the stock aside. Slice the dried shiitake caps into very narrow strips.
  2. Bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil. Blanch the bundle of leafy greens for 30 seconds, or until they wilt and turn a vivid green. With long chopsticks or tongs pull them from the pot and set aside. Blanch the tōfu slices in the same pot for 1 minute, or until oil swirls on the water’s surface. Drain, cut each slice lengthwise in half, and then cut each half crosswise into short, narrow strips. Blot away excess oil from the strips. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture, chop coarsely, and set aside.
  3. Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Toss in the tōfu and allow the pieces to sear for a moment until lightly browned at the edges. Add the fresh mushrooms, then the slivers of softened dried shiitaké and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until any excess liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are aromatic. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds longer. Add the saké and stir-fry until the pan is dry.
  4. Add the stock (it will sizzle and sputter a bit, so be careful) and lower the heat to maintain a steady but not-too-vigorous simmer. Skim away the first large cloud of froth that appears with a fine-mesh skimmer. More froth will appear (this is normal when using shiitaké mushroom stock) as you continue to simmer. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, then skim away the froth again.
  5. Add the carrot and daikon, season the soup with the mirin and light-colored soy sauce, and continue to simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are firm but tender and the flavors are melded.
  6. Add the yuba and stir to distribute, and then add the soy sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Add the mixture to the pan, raise the heat to high, and stir until thickened and glossy. The final soup will have the consistency of a thin sauce.
  7. Divide the noodles among 4 warmed bowls, then divide the soup evenly among the bowls. Top each serving with some of the chopped greens and a small mound of ginger. Serve immediately.

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