Mini Udon Hotpot ミニ鍋焼きうどん

japanese cake
This is another one of those dishes with which you conclude your Izakaya feast. Last time we were in Kappabashi district in Asakusa 浅草合羽橋, we found this mini-donabe ミニ土鍋, measuring a bit less than 5 inches in the outside diameter, in one of numerous restaurant supply shops which line the streets there. Since we are not big eaters, this is a perfect size for us to have a very small individual nabe dish. Tonight, I made a tiny “nabeyaki udon” ミニ鍋焼きうどん. 

Udon noodle is a thick (as compared to soba), white Japanese noodle made of wheat flour, which can be made at home (I have not tried it), bought frozen or dried. I almost exclusively use dried udon noodles just because it will keep a longtime in the pantry and is convenient. You can get quite a number of different kinds of dried udons from thin to thick. You could use udon like soba (especially thin ones). If you serve it in a warm soy sauce flavored broth, it is called “kake udon” かけうどん and by adding different toppings, it changes its name (this is exactly same for soba). For example, if you add a whole (raw) egg, it is called “Tsukimi Udon” 月見うどん or moon gazing udon (equating an egg yolk for a full moon). You could eat udon with a dipping sauce, called “Tsukeudon” 付けうどん, which is a rather recent invention. One dish in which you almost exclusively use udon noodle but not other noodles is this dish “nabeyaki udon” or udon hotpot. If you make it in a standard individual sized pot (see picture below), it is a classic whole-meal-in-a-pot dish.

I had already cooked udon (I prepare it as per the package instruction, it will keep several days in the refrigerator. This was leftover from making a tarako pasta dish). I place enough to fit in this small donabe pot (probably 1/4 of one standard serving). I use a bottle concentrated noodle sauce diluted in hot water to taste (use hot water to dilute as per instructions on the bottle label but make sure you taste it and adjust the strength). Of course, you could make this from scratch using dashi, mirin, sake, sugar, and soy sauce. I poured the diluted sauce to just cover the noodles. I added fresh shiitake mushroom (use small ones), two shrimp (I used frozen ones), greens (spinach is traditional but you can used anything such as snow peas, green beans, even green asparagus etc.  I used baby arugula here. You could pre-cook them before putting in or, like I did, just put it in over the top of the noodles and put on the lid. After it wilts and decreases in volume, you can rearrange the greens) and scallion sliced on an angle. Put on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes on a very low flame (be careful, it will boil over very easily). I finish the dish by adding half a beaten egg, put the lid back and let it stand for 5 minutes until the egg sets. 

Serve it with Japanese seven flavored red pepper powder or “shichimi togarashi 七味唐辛子 (red cylinder in the picture above). The sake cup is hand cut crystal by Kitaichi glass in Otaru, Hokkaido 北一ガラス、小樽、北海道. When you pour sake into this cup, the cherry blossoms etched on the bottom “float”. Since Cheery trees have been in blossom in Washington DC, this is perfect.

Comparison of a standard one-person donabe on the left (about 7-8 inches in diameter) and our mini-donabe on the right.

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