Monday, February 20, 2012

Mushroom and Udon Nabe

Over the half term holidays we had Iain, Dani, Tom and Heather over for a Japanese dinner party. I have really gotten into Japanese food lately and here in Manchester I have loved going out for a good Kyotoya or Samsi, but after my sushi class I really felt like I wanted to have a crack at making some different types of Japanese dishes. Tom and Iain both assured me that they and their respective partners love Japanese food so what better occasion for me to have a good go at making a load of stuff!

We ended up doing three courses: the first consisting of Sushi, Tempura and Gyoza bits to nibble on, the third a Chicken (Quorn for me) Katsu Curry. The second was the one I was most nervous and excited about at the same time was the second course of Nabe that I was planning to make.

Inspired by the amazingly delectable Nabe Tofu I had at Kyotoya, I really wanted to get my own little Nabe pot for making all sorts of Japanese noodle soups in future and to try and come up with a stock that would literally make me go "Ohhhhhhh!" again (this was the noise of pleasure I made when I first tasted my Kyotoya Nabe - a good noise to make I think!)

So my Nabe adventure actually began at Hang Won Hong Oriental Supermarket in Chinatown the day before our dinner party where I picked up a Nabe pot as well as some lovely china little bowls, china soup spoons for slurping, chopsticks and china chopstick holders.

I was really excited about my Nabe pot but also about laying the table with our new stuff - which Bailey ended up doing beautifully. Although our dining table ended up as a weird mix of Chinese crockery and our usual vintage stuff it looked great.

In terms of ingredients I had literally no idea as I really didn't know anything about what it is that makes Japanese food so darned yummy. So I had a really good read of loads of different Japanese cookery sites and learned all about making a soup stock out of Dashi and Sake and the types of ingredients you can use. I decided that as it was my first attempt I would buy some ready made Dashi Soup stock but maybe next time I will try to make my own as it sounds quite easy and fun. I also decided to use some yummy dried Shiitake mushrooms to make it taste more Japanese and also because I thought if I used real mushrooms they might release a lot of liquid and affect the flavour of the stock. I also decided to use Udon Noodles because they are more exciting due to the fact they are mega fat.

Well, the cooking of the Nabe really couldn't have been simpler. I really think I will be whipping Nabes up for quick weekday meals in future as it really was quick and simple. I was a bit worried at first as I really thought the dashi smelled awful but as soon as I'd added a bit of soy and a chicken cube (yes I am the worst pescatarian ever!) it tasted (and smelled) much better.

The end result was a very lovely looking Nabe with lots of flavour and lovely textures - I particularly liked the fat, chewy Udon Noodles. I think I overcooked the Pak Choi a little so have reduced the cooking time in the recipe below. I think our guests enjoyed the Nabe although it was quite difficult to eat and two of our guests were wearing white tops! Although the broth wasn't quite "Ohhhhhhh!" it was quite yummy and I am looking forward to having another play with the recipe. May the gorgeous Nabe pot live a long and prosperous life in our possession!

A handful of dried shiitake mushrooms
20g dashi powder
1 litre water
100ml sake
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
1 stock cube (we used chicken)
1 leek
2 packets udon noodles
3 pak choi

Start by putting the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and pouring boiling water over the mushrooms until they are submerged. Cover the bowl and allow the mushrooms to soften.

Sprinkle the dashi powder into the nabe cooking pot and add the water and sake. Put the lid on the nabe and bring to the boil.

When the liquid boils, reduce the heat and add the soy sauce, mirin and stock. Separate the shiitake mushrooms from the liquid. Keep the mushrooms to one side and add the liquid to the nabe. Continue to simmer, keeping the lid on the nabe.

Thinly slice the mushrooms and finely chop the leek.

Add them to the nabe and cook over a low heat until softened with the lid on.

Now add the udon noodles to the nabe and cook for around 3 minutes with the lid on or until the noodles are softened.

Add the pak choi to the nabe and cook for 1 minute with the lid on before serving.


  1. Hi Jules (Juliana?), this is Rachel in Tokyo. I found your blog by hopping from Roy's FB page - he taught me Spanish at Westfield many years ago . . .

    Anyway, your blog looks really interesting, and I was happy to read how much you like Japanese food. Just wanted to warn you about shiitake, because it looks like you had the stalks in there too. The stalks are more toxic than the rest of the mushroom, and I had a friend who got bad stomachache after eating them once, and was never able to eat any shiitake again, such a shame! If you did use the stalks, please be careful!

    Also, have you tried yuzu? It really is yummy, if you haven't tried it you really should. Also salted cherry blossoms. They make a delicious refreshing 'tea'. Finally, if you come across recipes using ingredients that you can't find in the UK, let me know and I'll try to send you some from Tokyo.

    So glad you're carrying on the family tradition teaching Spanish! Roy was one of the best teachers I ever had.

    1. Hello Rachel!

      Wow, how great to hear from you. Amazing to think that you were taught by Roy. I remember when Roy used to teach there when I was just a toddler and I went to see him in a school play of Sweeney Todd! It was quite scary actually...

      Thanks for looking at the blog. I am really into Japanese food and also would absolutely love to visit Japan. Do you live there now? How did you come to live there? I really want to get to know how to cook some Japanese dishes so if you could recommend any good chefs or books that I could use to get my started I would be very grateful! Thanks so much for the tip on the mushrooms. I had absolutely no idea, so glad I didn't poison my guests! I will take the stalks off next time!

      I haven't tried Yuzu or Salted Cherry Blossoms. I'm not sure what they are so will definitely enjoy having a good look on Google about them! I will be sure to pop into Samsi (a place that has a Japanese supermarket in it in Manchester that I'm planning to pop into!) Thanks so much for the offer of real Japanese ingredients too - what a kind thing to say!

      Wow, that's great that Roy was such a good teacher. He is a real inspiration to me, as is my Mum, I hope that I can make them proud by carrying on the family tradition! It's not an easy job but so rewarding. In a way though I think that's why I have a Food blog - it's nice to have a distraction from the busy life of teaching. :)

      Thanks again for your comment. Hope to speak to you again soon.

      Jules x

    2. Hi Jules,

      Yes, I live in Japan, I've been here for almost 20 years, I teach at a private girls' school. After Westfield I studied Chinese at university, spent some time in China then came to Japan, and have been here pretty much ever since!

      My favorite restaurant in the world is Nobu, if you ever get a chance to go you should. The one in London is good, but Tokyo is better! The cookbook (the first one, just called Nobu) is great, but I've never managed to cook much from it, it's too intimidating, but it sounds like you enjoy a challenge!

      There's a good cookbook called Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook, which is probably not what you would immediately think of when imagining Japanese food, but are the kind of things you'd get in a Japanese izakaya (pub doesn't quite fit). Harumi Kurihara's books are good too, I think.

      About the cherry blossoms; if they don't know what you're talking about when you ask for salted ones, ask for pickled ones instead, it's the same thing.

      You should also check out okonomiyaki, if you haven't already, it's really yummy, easy to make, and you can adapt it to anyone's preferences (that's what the name means).

      Did you ever see Roy perform as Buddy Storm? And Aida was the Spanish assistant when I was in the 5th year (= year 10 now?), so I had the benefit of both your parents' teaching!


    3. Wow, how fabulous - from Westfield to China to Japan!!! What an adventure. What are schools like in Japan? Very different to here I would imagine.

      Right Nobu it is then - I will plan a visit to the London one but keep the Tokyo one in mind for WHEN (not if!) I go there! I will have a look for Nobu cookbook on Amazon and see if I can try out some of the less intimidating recipes.

      Thanks for the tips on the other books too - will add to my wishlist!

      I will also try out Okonomiyaki - when I do I will make sure I blog it so you can give me some tips!

      I'm not sure if I ever saw Buddy Storm actually at Westfield but I've definitely seen pictures / videos. Roy also does pull some of the Buddy Storm moves out of the bag - a family holiday to Colombia where someone had set up a karaoke stage at my mum's cousin's house was the last time I witnessed it!! The Buddy Storm wig (gross thing!) also came out for several years afterwards as Roy would wear it every Hallowe'en to dress as "the ghost of Elvis". Ah - never a dull moment in the Morris household!!!

  2. Another Mushroom delicacy in my treasure now!

    spore syringe


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