Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kitsune Shirataki Deluxe Noodle Bowl

It's easing into autumn again, and that's the time of year when noodle bowls and other hot dishes with nourishing broth are brought more often to the table. One of my very favourite dishes is kitsune udon, but for a variety of reasons, sometimes people want an alternative to udon. It's also difficult at times to find a recipe that doesn't include fish ingredients, at least for the broth. What to do!

No worries. I've got this.

Shirataki is a type of noodle made from a plant called devil's tongue. They have recently become very popular as a 'diet noodle', since they have effectively 0 calories, 0 carbohydrates, and pretty much nothing bad, whilst at the same time helping the digestion and providing essential dietary fibre. I really like them, because they're so tasty and feel 'al dente' with very little preparation. You could easily switch to shirataki instead of something like the typical instant ramen and not notice a significant difference in taste, but you'll see a huge difference in the nutritional figures of your food. It's very handy in the seasons where we eat a lot more of this kind of food!

Kitsune Shirataki Deluxe Noodle Bowl


1/2-1 pack shirataki noodles (1 lb.)
2-3 pieces abura age
shichimi togarashi, to taste

for mixed vegetables:

5-6 whole leaves Korean cabbage or bok choy (or regular cabbage)
handful moyashi (bean sprouts)
1/2 spoon miso paste
1/2 spoon spicy red bean paste
dash soy sauce
dash sesame oil
pinch salt

for broth:

3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1-2 square inch kelp, cut into strips
bowl of water to reconsistute and cover
1-2 spoons soy sauce
1-2 spoons mirin
pinch salt
pinch sugar
1 spoon vegetable bouillon powder or shirataki liquid (optional)

Since this has a good few steps and may be complicated for you, I'm going to take it slowly and divide up the cooking. The great thing about noodle dishes is that you can generally prepare all the separate ingredient groups and just combine them at the end, as long as you keep everything warm. Don't panic!

Let's cook the broth!

1) First, take 3 dried shiitake mushrooms and a square of dried kelp. You can cut the kelp into strips when it's dry or when it's reconstituted, using kitchen scissors. Place them in a bowl and fill, covering them with water. You can place a saucer on top of the bowl, to keep them submerged.

2) After at least an hour or so, remove the saucer and then remove the shiitake and kelp. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, remove the stems from the shiitake and then cut the shiitake into slices with a diagonal angle. Set the kelp and the shiitake aside for now.

3) Pour the liquid into a saucepan and turn heat to high. Add soy sauce, mirin, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar. You can also add a little spoon of bouillon powder or some of the shirataki liquid, to give it a slightly richer taste. Mix to blend evenly. When it starts to boil, turn the heat off and take it off heat. Cover and keep warm.

Let's cook the mixed vegetables!

1) Heat a frypan on medium-high heat. While it's heating, take your cabbage leaves and slice them into strips, separating the thicker stalks from the thinner leaves if possible.

2) Add a little sesame oil to the pan and move it around; if it moves freely, the pan is hot enough. Add the moyashi first and a little bit of salt, stirring them and coating. Then add the stalk pieces and do the same. Let these cook for at least a couple of minutes, so they will be tender.

3) Now add the leaves, stir, and turn the heat off.

4) Quickly add miso, spicy bean paste, and a little bit of soy sauce. Combine the ingredients, adding a little more soy sauce if you need to, in order to make a kind of sauce.

5) Stir to coat, then turn the heat back on once everything has been coated, and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Let's cook the noodles!

1) Snip the shirataki bag and drain. Make sure the snip is a small one, so you don't lose any noodles. Squeeze the bag gently to get all the liquid out. If you want to save some liquid for the broth, you can just drain the bag into a bowl and use what you want.

2) Place the shirataki in a bowl and use kitchen scissors to trim the noodles. They are very, very long so you will definitely not want to skip this step!

3) Fill a saucepan a little over halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the noodles to the pan and boil for a couple of minutes, making sure to stir and separate the noodles lightly.

4) Drain the noodles and then put them back into the saucepan, without water. Return them to heat and stir, cooking off all the liquid.

5) Turn off the heat but leave the pot on the hot eye. Add a dash of soy sauce and keep stirring. The noodles will visibly absorb the soy sauce. Once there is no liquid left, remove from heat and place in a bowl.

Let's put it all together!

1) Place the cooked noodles in the bowl with the kelp and shiitake. Pour the hot broth over them.

2) Add the mixed vegetables, being careful not to pour any liquid into the broth.

3) Add the abura age and shichimi togarashi.

But Dhiar, you say, I don't have any prepared abura age! Well, abura age is pretty easy to whip up, even if all you have is just sushi age (which you can get most places). Abura age is sweetened, fried tofu skins, and it is what gives anything 'kitsune' its name, because it is believed that kitsune, or foxes, love abura age above all.

Here's how to whip up some abura age from simple sushi age, or fried tofu skins.

Quick Abura Age


Sushi age or other thin, fried tofu (you could probably also use a baked tofu cake, but it must be thin)
2 spoons soy sauce
2 spoons mirin
1/2-1 spoon sugar
pinch salt

1) Fill a saucepan about halfway with water, and turn on heat. Add sushi age (or unseasoned abura age) that you have pressed and cut into square pieces. Add them to the water and make sure to submerge them. When it comes to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Depending on what kind of tofu you are using, it may take longer. But it should look more tender and almost meaty in appearance and texture.

2) Drain and cool. Squeeze or press the excess moisture from the tofu.

3) Fill a saucepan about halfway with water again, and turn on heat. Add soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and salt, and stir to combine. When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to simmer after adding the tofu to the mixture. Make sure it stays submerged.

4) You can cover it for a slightly fuller flavour. Simmer for 10-20 minutes.

5) Take off heat and drain, but do not press; leave some of the sweet simmering broth in them so they will be especially savoury.

And there you have it!

I know this seems like a pretty elaborate recipe, but actually once you get it down, I think you'll have no trouble just whipping it up anytime. The shirataki in the 1-pound bags is enough for at least 2-3 meals, and you can even do steps 1-3 and refrigerate the noodles you don't want to eat that moment and prepare them later. They should keep for several days, even prepared.

If you prefer, you can just forego the mixed vegetables. You can even save the shiitake and kelp for later, if you prefer not to eat them in the noodles. That's the great part about Japanese noodle recipes: they're very individualistic. Everyone has a way they prefer to eat noodles, and just about every shop will have at least a slightly different recipe, a slightly different approach to things. So experiment, see what you like the most, and then...enjoy your meal!

Doesn't that look delicious?

It certainly tasted delicious!

Enjoy, as always!

};) Dhiar ♥