If there’s the one thing I could never tire slurping of, it’s this vegan udon noodle soup. A vegetarian-friendly “dashi” (Japanese soup stock) lends a baseline hum, strummed by meatily-textured mushrooms and eggplant. The bowl is brought together by a healthy dose of udon noodles, which strike a soft and chewy chord!
Bookmark this recipe as one that’s as rich in flavour as it is in comfort. It’s a dish elegant in its simplicity, propped up by the background complexity of umami-rich flavours characteristic of Japanese cuisine.
Starring Ingredients In This Udon Noodle Recipe
While dashi – Japanese soup stock – is often emboldened with seafood (think dried shrimp, sardines or even scallops), in its simplest (yet oh-so-flavourful) form dashi can be inherently vegan or vegetarian too.
- Kombu (dried kelp) and dried shiitake mushrooms add a potent punch of umami.
- The overall depth of flavour and savouriness supported by an ensemble act of seasonings including mirin (a type of rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content) and vegan “fysh” sauce (also made with mushrooms and seaweed for an “oceany” flavour).
Vegan Udon Noodle Soup
For the vegan dashi
- 1½ tbsp sesame oil
- 1 thumb-sized (3 inch) piece of ginger
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 heaping tbsp miso
- 3 – 4 dried red chillies
- 4×4 inch piece of kombu
- large stalk of lemongrass
- 3 – 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 – 2 carrots, diced
- 1 – 2 leeks, sliced
- 6 cups of water
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp fysh sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp ground coriander (optional)
- 1 packet of udon noodles
- 3 – 4 tbsp sesame oil (divided)
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 packet tofu (silken-firm or extra firm)
- mushrooms of choice (Baby Bella or Shiitake work well)
- 1 – 2 tbsp teriyaki sauce (optional)
- cornflour for coating
To make the vegan dashi
- Heat 1½ tbsp sesame oil in a large pot (medium low heat). Sauté the ginger and garlic cloves until fragrant (about a minute). Add the miso and stir to smoothen the paste.
- Add the remaining ingredients for the dashi (water, lemongrass, shiitake mushrooms, kombu, chillies, carrots, leeks, soy sauce, mirin, vegan fysh sauce, honey and a pinch of salt).
- Remove the kombu before the broth comes to a boil (this is essential, as otherwise the broth will be too bitter with an undesirably slimy texture!).
- Once boiling, reduce heat and let the dashi simmer for 30-35 minutes before straining. Taste and adjust as you’d like, for instance adding a splash more soy sauce for an umami kick; or a dash of honey for a subtle sweetness.
To cook the tofu
- Drain the excess water out of the tofu by wrapping the block between paper towels and then gently pressing down to release the water using a steel plate or even a wooden chopping board. Let the tofu sit for at least half an hour (ideally an hour) until it is fully drained and firm enough,
- Then, cut it into cubes or long rectangular strips and coat it with cornflour.
- Head a tbsp of sesame oil in a skillet and pan-fry the tofu for 7 – 10 minutes , flipping the pieces over until they’re golden brown and crisp on both sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Cut the eggplants in cubes and immediately soak in water. Set aside for 15 minutes or so, before patting dry with a paper towel.
- Heat a tbsp of oil in a skillet (medium heat). Add the cubed eggplant and sauté until tender and golden-brown (be careful not to overcook the eggplant though as we don’t want a mushy texture!). Add a couple of tablespoons of teriyaki sauce at the end and toss the eggplant pieces until evenly seasoned. Set aside.
To cook the mushrooms
- Thinly slice the mushrooms.
- Heat a tbsp of oil in a skillet (medium heat). Once shimmering, add the mushrooms and stir often, sautéing until the mushrooms have browned and softened with a tender texture. You’ll know they have cooked once the mushrooms release their earthy aroma.
To assemble the dashi
- Cook udon noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and divide among 3 – 4 serving bowls.
- Top with the cooked eggplant, tofu and mushrooms; then ladle the dashi on top. Serve hot!
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