Think of gyudon. The beef in this noodle dish is cooked pretty much the same way the gyu (beef) in gyudon is cooked but minus the onions. And, instead of pairing the beef with rice, it goes into a hot bowl of noodle soup. So, you can imagine how this dish tastes.
Now, the obvious question: Does it have to be udon? No, you may use pretty much any variety of Asian noodle and the dish will be just as great. For more about Asian noodles, see the linked guide below.
The thing about Asian noodles is that, unlike pasta, you almost always need to dump the cooked noodles in cold water to stop the cooking, prevent the strands from sticking to one another and avoid them from turning soggy in the bowl.
We buy our udon fresh and vacuum-packed. Although the noodles are labeled “ready to eat”, I still prefer to drop them in boiling water, stir them to separate and, once the water comes to a boil again, I turn the heat off and pour the noodles into a colander in the sink. The drained noodles then go into a bowl of icy water where they stay until cold. Then, they go into a colander again where they wait until the bowls of noodle soup are ready to be assembled.
The spinach is cooked in lightly salted water just until wilted then removed with tongs and drained. Into the remaining water, enoki is dropped in, cooked for about half a minute and drained.
The beef component takes longest to cook. Ten minutes, actually. For the sake of efficiency, start heating your broth before cooking the beef. That way, both the beef and broth are hot when you start assembling your noodle soup bowls.
Spread thinly sliced beef in a heated pan coated with sesame oil, leave for the underside to brown lightly, then stir. Cook, stirring often, until the meat has lost its pinkness.
Then, you pour in equal amounts of dashi, Japanese soy sauce, sake and mirin. If your beef is sliced thinly enough, and it is the correct cut, it should be perfectly cooked by the time the liquid has evaporated and their flavors have been soaked up by the meat. I do this by cooking the beef over medium heat, uncovered, just until the mixture is dry.
With all the components of the dish ready, you just assemble your bowls of noodle soup.
Beef and mushroom udon soup
- 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 500 grams thinly sliced beef cut into one-inch pieces
- ¼ cup dashi
- ¼ cup Japanese soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin
- 3 egg yolks
- toasted sesame seeds
- Boil water and dump in the noodles. Stir lightly to loosen and separate.
- When the water comes to a rolling boil, turn off the heat, pour the noodles into a colander then dump the noodles into a bowl of icy water. Leave until cold then pour into a colander once more.
- Boil about four cups of water and add two generous pinches of salt.
- Drop in the spinach, press down with a spatula, and cook just until wilted. Pick up with kitchen tongs and drain.
- In the remaining water, blanch the enoki and drain.
- Pour the broth into a pan and heat until simmering. Keep the heat at the lowest setting to keep the broth hot.
- Heat a frying pan and coat the bottom with sesame seed oil.
- Spread the beef in the pan, leave until the undersides are lightly browned then stir. Cook until no longer pink.
- Mix together the dashi, soy sauce, sake and mirin, and pour over the beef.
- Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the mixture is quite dry.
- To assemble the noodle soup bowls, divide the noodles into three portions then drop each portion into a bowl. Arrange the spinach, enoki and beef around the noodles. Pour in boiling broth and carefully slide in an egg yolk. Sprinkle in toasted sesame seeds and serve.