A Japanese evening: salmon sashimi and mushroom & leek udon noodles

Mushroom & leek udon noodles

Sometimes saturdays can be great. A day out perusing the enormous 6-floor Waterstone’s on Picadilly, followed by a happy stroll through the Japan centre. This yielded some salmon sashimi, udon noodles and a pack of interesting mushrooms (alongside all sorts of other exciting food).

Then, sitting at home watching the way the late afternoon light hits the slate roofs and brick below, and they just glow. Softly at first, but then with increasing strength until gently the light ebbs signalling the onset of dusk.

And right now, dusk means dinner time. Pulling together my goodies I set to work. As well as the salmon I’d also got hold of some scallop and squid that I fried super quick for a snack while I assembled my noodle dish.

I love Udon noodles: their gently floury taste, reminiscent somehow of both dumplings and pasta; their firm tentacly texture; and the way that sauce seems to just coat them rather than tenuously cling like it does with other noodles.

There is something very, but undefinabley, Japanese about them. Maybe it’s their simplicity, maybe it’s their resemblance to some sort of uber-blobby monster that might tackle Godzilla. But whatever it is, it really appeals to me.

Udon suit a swift assemblage of saucy veg rather then a soup or casserole. With this in mind I threw together a quick stir-fry of leeks, four types of mushrooms (of which I recognised only shitake and oyster), all bathed in Japanese soy sauce and some mirin.

The end result was a salty-sweet mix of firm noodle, al-dente leeks and soft mushrooms. A sprinkling of chilli and sesame added a nutty heat that pulled it all together.

Salmon sashimi
Salmon sashimi

Alongside this went salmon sashimi. Prepared well and super fresh, there are better fish for sashimi, but as an all rounder it’s hard to beat an unctuous, fatty slab of red oily flesh. The richness cut with the slightest swipe of wasabi infused soy. This evening it was the perfect appetite sharpener.

Mushroom & leek udon noodles
Enough for one, or two if you are having another dish or two

To get the best possible flavour, using the right type of soy sauce really matters. Japanese soy sauce is brewed differently from Chinese, or any other, soy sauce. It has a slightly more umami-ish taste, a kind of tangy savouriness to it that sets it apart.

Here, that slight difference, combined with the mirin gives it real balance and complements the mushrooms in particular. It both softens and strengthens the dish.

1 pack udon noodles
.5 onion
100g (or there abouts) mixed mushrooms
2 small leeks
30ml Japanese soy
30ml Mirin
1 clove garlic
.5 thumb ginger
a couple of pinches of chilli flakes
a scattering of roasted sesame seeds

Slice the onions, leeks, mushrooms and finely slice the garlic and ginger. Heat some oil until it is smoking hot and stir fry the onion until it is soft. Add the leeks and mushrooms and stir fry until the leeks start to soften, about 2 minutes or so.

Chuck in the ginger and garlic, fry for another 30 seconds or so – or until the aroma rises up from the pan – then add the mirin and soy. Stir around until it starts to bubble and then add the noodles. Stir and fry for another three minutes.

Add the chilli flakes, mix them in and then serve and scatter with sesame seeds.

10 Responses to “A Japanese evening: salmon sashimi and mushroom & leek udon noodles”

  1. meemalee

    Udon is one of my favourite go-to evening meals and I love the idea of scallop and squid as a snack! Although I dispute the fact that they don’t suit soup. I reckon the mushrooms included enoki and shimeji – see http://www.meemalee.com/2009/05/recipe-wafu-spaghetti-with-shimeji.html

    Incidentally you’ve basically described a perfect day – am slightly concerned you are the male version of me.

    The salmon sashimi picture is stunning btw.

    ps do you use dried or ready-to-rock udon? I can never get the dried stuff to come out right.

  2. The Grubworm

    Hi Meemalee! It’s not that they don’t suit soup, it’s just that I prefer them in a slightly clingy sauce. I have practical reasons for this. When they come in soup, i usually finish the meal with said soup all over my glasses, in my hair, my drink, on my back once! And i used the ready-to-rock variety of Udon – i didn’t even know you could get dried…

    As for the mushrooms, they looked like mini fairy metropolises – like something you’d find in a book authored by China Meiville & illustrated by Arther Rackham. So i think you’re right, probably Shimeji and very possibly enoki. Although mine didn’t quite as perfect as the one on your blog.

    Thanks re the pic – if only i could have got rid of the glare though.

  3. Mr Noodles

    I’m with you Grubworm! Udon are much better off stir-fried than in soup. With the exception of Chinese ho-fun (broad rice noodle), i struggle to think of a thick noodle that goes well in soup.

    BTW whilst Udon are quintessentially Japanese, did you know that they originated in China as cu-mian (lit. thick noodle)?

  4. The Grubworm

    I didn’t know that about the thick noodles, although, when i think about it, it doesn’t really surprise me that much. Interesting. I know very little about noodles, other than they possibly originated in Persia or China…

  5. shayma

    that looks gorgeous, like your descriptions a lot.and the photos are wonderful- popping out at you. i am on a big soy sauce kick these days, i love dark soy (I wonder what they put in it, is it a reduction? it is almost like syrup) sweet soy sauce (for nasi goreng) ooh and black vinegar too since we’re on the topic of dark sauces. lastly, mushroom soy sauce.

  6. The Grubworm

    Thanks Shayma! I’m with you on the soy sauce – esp the dark one which can do so many wonderful things to a dish. I’m tempted to try it out in some onion gravy – unorthodox, but I reckon it would be a great Worcestershire sauce substitute for vegetarians… I’ve never tried the mushroom version – i must give it a go. And I need to find out what precisely they do differently when they produce it in Japan.

  7. Maninas

    Lovely dish. I’ll try this soon.

    I like both dark and light soy sauce, and the Japanese shoyu. I use them in different ways. Dark soy sauce when I want a more caramely flavour, light when I’m cooking veg and when I want to just season it lightly. I also use soy sauce in non-chinese/japanese/asian dishes to add a bit more umami flavour. Most recently in a veggie three bean chili. It works great!

  8. The Grubworm

    Ooo, good plan re the soy in chilli – will have to try next time. I’ve done similar with fish sauce, but never soy before. Good plan.

  9. Lizzie

    I love udon noodles – they are so satisfyingly thick and chewy. Lovely pictures.

  10. The Grubworm

    @Lizzie they’re just so toothsome aren’t they? I reckon this is whatakes them so good cold and hot.

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