Fidget – having heard that slurping your noodles aloud is an unmistakeable sign of approval in Japan – is never missing an opportunity to, er, show his appreciation…
Oya-ko Udon the Fidget way
He’s such a big fan of this dish that the Rowes make it often. It’s very much the soothing, winter Sunday-evening dish of choice in the cartoon kitchen. And today being one of the ‘days of the hen blackbird’ (giorni della merla), 29th to 31st January, traditionally the year’s coldest – which might not be so for London in 2016 – what better way to warm up on a midwinter day?
Though by no means an original Japanese recipe, it is, however, an excellent way to use what’s at hand, and you can adapt the dish to your liking. The key element is the presence of both chicken and egg (oya-ko, parent-child). Plus vegetables, plus udon noodles. And Fidget is lucky enough to be able to put his paws on the really delicious frozen udon variety straight from Japan (fear ye not, most ingredients can also be found easily in specialist supermarkets).
For the base we use the guidelines for miso soup – though perhaps not the same intensity of flavour, reducing the amount of miso to taste. For two servings you will need: ½ sachet of dashi (but please follow the pack instructions for strength), 3–4 tbsp of miso and a sprinkle of dried wakame. Start by warming a litre of water in a large pan, add the dashi and then the miso little by little, making sure there are no lumps. Add a generous pinch of wakame and keep the soup just simmering (you don’t want it to boil). This is your base, to which you will add the udon noodles and the toppings.
Chez Rowe, we often make this dish on a Sunday evening after a roast chicken lunch. Pick the leftover lean meat (no skin or fatty bits) from the frame of the chicken and shred it. Add vegetables of your choice – in the cartoon kitchen we favour a mix of pak choi, mangetout, shitake and/or enoki mushrooms, which you can chop bite-size and gently stir fry or wilt beforehand. We also like to add some 1cm cubes of tofu.
Next, the soft-boiled eggs, one for each serving: in a separate pan put the eggs in cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for one minute. Remove the eggs from the water and let cool until you can handle them; peel and keep them ready to cut in half to add to the soup just before serving. It can take some trial and error to get the eggs just right (you’re aiming for a solid white and a soft yolk), or you could just crack them into the soup one minute before serving up, so that the heat of the soup will cook them.
We’re almost ready to assemble the dish. Place the frozen udon in a separate heatproof bowl. Defrost them with boiling water until they loosen. Drain.
Now, to the soup base add the shredded chicken, the wilted/stir-fried vegetable mix, the udon noodles and the tofu. Keep simmering for a minute or two and be ready with the soft-boiled eggs and some finely sliced spring onions (a tiny bit of fresh chilli too, if you like) to add at the last minute.
Serve and enjoy, slurping allowed. Storm Gertrude, Fidget is ready for you!