One of the joys of vegan Japanese food is the humbly delicious udon noodle. Thick and substantial, yet slippery and melting, udon is a wonderful comfort food. Despite common opinion stating that udon noodles are high in calories, a medium portion in a broth like this is wonderfully healthy. Don’t worry if you can’t find mirin (a Japanese rice wine); you could substitute in dry sherry.
- 100g shiitake mushrooms
- 3 cups/700ml water
- 3 sheets deep-fried tofu, drained and sliced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1/2 carrot, sliced thinly
- 50g chinese cabbage, chopped
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 270g dried udon noodles
- Cook udon noodles, according to package instructions. Cut off the stalks of the shiitake mushrooms, and lay aside. Soak the mushroom caps in the water for 30 minutes (now is a good time to prepare vegetables and lay the table!).
- Remove caps from the water, and strain the water into a saucepan to remove any grit. Heat on a low heat. Slice the shiitake mushroom caps and put aside with the stalks.
- Heat a wok on a high heat, and grease very slightly. Fry the tofu for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the sugar and sake, and continue to stir fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the hot mushroom water and reduce the heat. Cook on a medium flame for around 10 minutes, after which any froth should be skimmed off.
- Add the carrot, Chinese cabbage, mirin and half of the soy sauce, and simmer for 3 minutes – letting the flavors infuse.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tbsp cold water, then add to the wok.
- Divide the udon noodles between the bowls, and add the soup.
Serve hot with freshly grated ginger and shredded leek.
Jessica Edney is a young vegetarian food blogger who adores living in Tokyo and blogging about her culinary escapades there. Her site (Wake Me Up With a Smile) has been up and running for just over five months but has regular readers from all over the world, including her native Britain and the USA. She has been featured in the popular English language magazine based in Tokyo, Metropolis, recently, and wants to continue working in media after university.