We’ve been visiting noodle restaurants for almost as long as I can remember, and have passed over a basic sounding dish on the menu many times, dismissing its simplicity in favour of the more showy, topping laden bowls. That is at least, until a couple of years ago whilst on a lunchtime visit to a market in Kyoto, we stopped by an udonya and tried the curiously named Kitsune Udon (fox noodles) for the first time and became instant converts. A deep bowl of perfectly cooked, thick white udon, a slightly smokey, fish based soup, and a single piece of inari-age, simmered in a sweet soy and mirin liquor until the sponge-like tofu had absorbed a massive amount of flavour. The clean soup paired with the rich, sweetness of the tofu was an incredibly soothing combination, and one that we’ve tried to eat as often as possible since our first taste.
Many people like to add narutomaki or kamoboko to their kitsune udon -and feel free to if you want, they’re both delicious additions- but we like to keep ours uncomplicated and the way we’ve always eaten it in Japan; just the noodles, the broth, a sweet slab of toothsome inari-age and a mound of spicy, fresh spring onions. Perfect comfort food if you’re feeling a little under the weather and great fuel for foxes on a night-time prowl.
- 20g dried kombu
- 20g katsuobushi flakes
- 60ml soy sauce
- 60ml mirin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Put 2250ml water into a large saucepan and bring it to a simmer over a low heat. Wipe the dried kombu with a damp cloth to get rid of any sand or dirt, then cut it into pieces with some scissors and place into the pan of water. Simmer the kombu for three to four minutes then remove the seaweed strips, increase the heat under the pan and bring the kombu-seasoned water to the boil.
- Take the pan off the heat and immediately sprinkle the katsuobushi flakes over the surface of the hot water. Leave these to infuse for around two minutes, taste the liquid to see if it has reached a flavour you’re happy with then strain the liquid into a bowl through muslin or a fine sieve; reserve 250ml of dashi for cooking the abura-age later, then pour the remaining stock back into the saucepan.
- Next, add the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and salt, and bring the broth to a simmer to dissolve all the ingredients.
- 60g abura-age
- 250ml dashi, reserved from the above recipe
- 80ml soy sauce
- 20ml mirin
- 40g sugar
- Add the dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar to a small pan, and bring it to a simmer. Put the abura-age sheets into a sieve and pour a kettle of boiling water over them to remove any surface oil. Allow the sheets to cool slightly, then gently squeeze to get rid of excess water to avoid diluting the seasoning liquor too much.
- Carefully place the abura-age into the simmering liquid, and leave them to cook over a low heat for fifteen minutes, basting frequently for the first five minutes. After the time’s up, turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan, and leave the sheets to absorb more of the liquid whilst keeping warm.
Kitsune Udon Ingredients.
- 2L broth from the above recipe
- 1 quantity inari-age from the above recipe
- 600g udon noodles
- 4-5 spring onions
- Start to boil a pan of water to cook the udon noodles in, and finely slice your spring onions. When the water has come to a boil, cook the noodles as per the instructions on the packet (normally around three to four minutes).
- When the udon are cooked, drain them well and divide the noodles between four serving bowls. Ladle warm broth over the noodles, place a sheet of inari-age on top- being careful not to add too much of the cooking liquor, and add a generous mound of spring onions to each bowl to finish.
Serves 4 people.