Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cold thin udon noodles with dipping sauce 冷たいうどん

We are having some very hot and humid days including a sudden big storm called a (derecho). The storm was incredibly violent. Large trees with trunks several feet in diameter were split in half by the high winds. This happened to a number of trees around us. All of the debris from the downed trees ended up in our neighbors yard but luckily they did not cause any significant structural damage. In addition we lost our power for just a short period of time. In our area, many other people were not so fortunate. Eleven people lost their lives due to the storm. In addition, many households went without electricity for almost a week in temperatures hovering around 100 F. One evening, I made a cool and easy to eat dish for the hot humid summer evening.
Initially, I thought I would like to make "soumen" 素麺  but I found out that I was totally out of it. The reason, I remembered, was that I threw away all the dried soumen I had few month ago. "Soumen"  has a coat of oil on the surface in the process of making noodles very thin without sticking together. The oil will eventually oxidize. So, soumen does not last as long as other dried noodles.  I looked around and found I had some very thin dried udon which was perfect for eating cold with dipping sauce. This one is called "Harima's thread udon" 播磨の糸うどん (see below left). I have to assume it came from Hyogo prefecture 兵庫県 area where the noodles, especially soumen, are one of their well-known local food items.
Udon noodles: I followed the package instruction and boiled the udon noodles for 8 minutes in rapidly boiling water (no salt) and then quickly rinsed in cold running water. I added ice cubes on top while it was in the colander to cool it down completely.

Condiments: This could be as Spartan as just chopped scallion to anything you like. I went for a rather deluxe (sounds dated) version and included the followings:
1. Chicken breast: This is the leftover barbecued chicken breast which was teased into thin strands.
2. Cucumber: One mini-cucumber was sliced on a slant and then julienned.
3. Golden thread omelet: "Kinshiran" 金糸卵 from one egg.
4. Scallion: Two, finely chopped.
5.  Nori: This is one package of seasoned nori cut into thin strips.

Dipping sauce: I used a bottle of concentrated noodle sauce. According to the instructions on the bottle label, I diluted it to 1 part sauce and 2 parts water. I tasted it. It was slightly less potent than I would have used for dipping sauce but I felt it was fine.
I could have placed the udon on a small serving bamboo basket which is called "zaru" ざる in Japanese (which I have and, if I did use it, this dish could have been officially called "zaru udon" ざるうどん (I did serve cold udon a few days later in a special serving dish with a bamboo mat on the bottom which qualifies this dish as "zaru udon" -see picture below- but, instead, I served these noodles in a rather cool looking square shallow glass bowl (see above picture). I topped the cold udon with slices of pickled okra and cherry*. Since I did not have perilla, I julienned fresh basil leaves and pretended it was perilla.

*Cherry: This is how my wife prepares cherry. She removes the stone or pit using a handy-dandy cherry pitter. She then cuts the pitted cherry in half to make sure no pits were left behind by the pitter (biting into an unsuspected pit is extremely unpleasant not to mention lethal to teeth). Then she marinates the cherries in a small amount of triple sac. This tends to preserve the fruit making it last longer while still retaining its fresh flavor and texture. We used this as our fruit with lunch etc.

The above picture is the "zaru udon" I served on a different day. This time, the green strip (2nd from the top) was indeed a julienne of perilla and the white strip (top) was Vidalia onion (salted, kneaded and briefly soaked in cold water) instead of scallion.  The 3rd strip was sake-steamed chicken, the 4th threads of omelet, and the last cucumber. The condiments were for two of us.

Back to the Udon dish: When I served the dish I of course, placed a bottle of  Japanese 7 flavored red pepper fakes 七味唐辛子 on the same tray to add a little kick (mostly for me). This was a perfect cold dish to finish. We liked this thin udon much better than soumen. It has a nice al dente texture and is nicely smooth as it comes into the mouth.  All the condiments made this noodle dish a full-fledged meal.

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