Udon Noodles in Bonito & Mushroom Broth

YOU GUYS!!! This soup recipe is AMAZING. It’s totally hard to explain because there are so few ingredients, but Gary (soulmate) lovingly/obsessively perfected the broth recipe until it became a deep, savory well of layered subtle flavors. As my still-in-highschool youngest brother would say, it’s BOSS.

Ingredients
dried bonito flakes
dried shiitake mushrooms
2 carrots
3+ heads baby bok choy
2 servings frozen (or fresh or dried) Udon noodles

H’OKAY: first things first- we make the broth!

So, Udon noodles are often served in a Dashi broth. Dashi is comprised of bonito flakes and kombu kelp…which I know because Gary told me. I don’t know how you go about finding said kelp- especially if you only speak English and a smattering of French-food-vocabulary, so I’ll restrain calling this Dashi for the sticklers, but I’ma call it that in my head because “bonito and mushroom” is kinda a mouthful.
(Heh heh.)

Take out a big soup pot. Fill it with eight cups of water and bring to a rolling boil.

When the water is boiling, add a cup of the dried shiitake. Stir and wait a few minutes, until mushrooms are really soaked through, absorbing the water.

Add a cup of bonito flakes and immediately cover and remove from heat.

Bonito flakes (aka katsuobushi) are flakes of dried, smoked tuna fish. Wikipedia tells me they look similar to wood shavings- thankfully, I don’t find this comparison to be true, but hey, maybe it’ll help you identify them in your international aisle or market.
An old woman who worked in an old favorite grocery, in the grungiest part of Philadelphia’s Chinatown, once told me (well, “told”- mainly through an elaborate game of charades at the cash register) that bonito flakes were eaten plain as a fun and popular snack. I do not advise you try this. Judging by how hilarious this lady thought my experimental “fun” mouthful and subsequent upset was, I’m not totally sure she wasn’t just messing with me. Whatever, just be careful.
Anyhow, when dry, the smoky, fishy taste and smell are quite strong- so start with a limited amount, and add more as needed, by tasting.

Let the soup pot sit for ten minutes after you’ve turned the heat off. This is so the flavors can collect and stew.

Then, use a slotted spoon to gently scoop up and whisk away all possible trace of both the shiitake and bonito flakes (you can also totally leave the mushrooms in- if, unlike Gary, you’re not a little freaked out by the somewhat earlobe-y consistency of the dried shiitake once given a hydration boost).

The place you should be whisking away to is a cheesecloth or one of those tiny sieves, either suspended over another pot. Or, if you can’t afford either of those/can’t find them in the supermarket, you can use a loose-weave regular dishcloth like Gary did here.

You then squeeze the cloth until the juices run through it and collect in the pot below more of a concentrate.

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Add this bonito & shiitake juice back into the broth.

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Slice off just the very-bottom (the hard, white end) of each bok choy head. The aethestic is nicer when you just slice off enough, but not so much that the head falks apart, and the leaves float off every which way.

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Peel your carrots and slice them into medallions (with your preferred thickness- I advocate not thin slices, but a nice, medium thickness so not too meaty while preserving a bit of crunch).

Add both carrot and bok choy to the soup pot and return to boil.

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Vegetables will slowly soften. This soup batch boiled, was reduced to a medium-heat and then cooked for maybe twenty to thirty minutes, until the carrots become tender.

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Fill another pot with water and bring to a boil.

Take out your Udon noodles and prep for landing. When water is boiling, throw ’em in!

These here are frozen and separated into single-ish servings. Because they were frozen fresh, they cooked in LIGHTNING SPEED so be sure you read your directions beforehand or at least be standing watch.

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When the noodles are cooked, quickly drain them.

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Spoon up two (or more!) hot servings of broth, until each bowl filled about halfway. Use a fork or tongs to move veg (serving size of choice- I like about half a big carrot and one bok choy head each) from soup pot to bowls. Finish by carefully transferring noodles from colander to each of the bowls.

And…voila! Now, how good does that look?? Leave me comments, lovelies!

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