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.
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
100g (or there abouts) mixed mushrooms
2 small leeks
30ml Japanese soy
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.