Thursday, December 4, 2008

Day 13 -Udon Noodle Soup with Shrimp Tempura

I wanted to do something different today, something that didn't involve beans or turkey. So I ran over the Roosevelt Island bridge, and then over the Queensboro Bridge to get to Manhattan. I was planning on making udon noodles with tempura and I knew just the spot to go. A Japanese grocery store called Katagiri, on 59th street and third avenue.

As soon as I walked into the store I saw these little Japanese deserts called Matsue Kashi, and I had to pick some up. I got my tempura batter, stock, deserts and I also picked up some shrimp dumplings, pre-made shrimp tempura (in case mine failed miserably) nanami togarashi (a chili pepper spice mix) and green onions. I already had udon noodles, from my last trip to Japan.

I have been to Japan several times, and to several different cities for work. Of all the cities I have been to (five in total) I especially enjoyed Hiroshima and Nagoya because of the castles, temples, nature and good food. Although, it is hard not to find good food in Japan, even for a quasi seafood/fish hater myself. My tastes run high I guess, because I only like shrimp, lobster, crab and tuna fish sandwiches.

Not only do we love Japanese
food, it just so happens that our dog is Japanese too. Musha (Japanese for warrior/samurai) is a Shiba Inu, and yes, for some odd reason we Western people like giving our Shiba's a Japanese name. Don't ask me why.

If you happen to have a Japanese grocery store near you, you may notice that there are no instructions in English, or at least that was the case for me. So you can either wing it, find a recipe online, or ask them to translate for you at the store. I decided to wing it for the broth, and follow a recipe for the tempura. Now, I will be upfront, I didn't make the broth myself. I found this powdered base -with the help of a grocery store employee- and I guessed the proportions of powder to water by using the numbers on the back of the box. Not ideal, but it worked.

The thing I was most nervous about was making the shrimp and sweet potato tempura. I am a bit of a fry-a-phobic. I don't like giant pots of 350F boiling fat, let alone dropping stuff into it. I was quite pleased that it worked out, and maybe I will fry again. My shrimps were not pretty or elongated, but I think they tasted pretty good, aside from the fact that it was missing salt.

For our desert we had four different kinds of Kashi. In the top left corner was Chocomaru made from chocolate and bean paste, the bottom left was Yuzuka made with the citrus fruit yuzu and sweet bean, the top right was Oshiro Tsubaki made of chestnut meal paste in the middle surrounded by a red bean paste, and the bottom right was Seiya, a little Chirstmas tree made of sweet bean paste. If you haven't already noticed red bean paste is the main theme in all of the deserts. It seems a lot of Japanese desserts are made from rice and red bean paste. The Kashi look absolutely beautiful, but the taste is something I, or even most North Americans are completely unaccustomed to. We like our deserts to be rich and sweet, but the Japanese desert is a balance between savory and sweet, definitely a more subtle flavor. I will be honest, both Darien and I were not totally sold on them -give me a creme brulee or molten lava cake any day- but I do appreciate the craft and effort that goes into them, and I do love the flavor of yuzu.

Udon Noodle Soup with Shrimp Tempura

1 Package of udon noodles
Seasoning powder or liquid called Udon Tsuyu No Moto (make broth according to directions)
2 green onions finely sliced
Nanami Togarashi (optional seasoning)

1 cooked sweet potato boiled, and thinly sliced
5-10 un-cooked shrimp, peeled, and deveined
1 cup tempura mix
1 cup water
Vegetable oil for frying


Bring stock to a boil. Bring water to a boil and cook udon noodles according to the directions.

Meanwhile, mix water and tempura flour with a chopstick or a fork lightly until mixed.
Heat oil in a pot or wok until it reaches 340-350F. Fry shrimp and sweet potato until it floating to the top and becomes golden. Remove with a spider or slotted spoons and place on a plate with paper towels.

To serve, place udon noodles in the bottom of a bowl, add broth and green onions on top. Serve with shrimp and sweet potato tempura.

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