Korea, Japan’s closest neighbour has been gaining global reputation in film and TV drama industry. Known as K-dramas, Korean dramas and films are seen all over the world and several of them are gaining high popularity on Netflix.
Korean food has also contributed the spread of Korean Wave. I learn a great deal from the most basic and authentic recipes by Korean Cultural Centre. I am quite sure that most Japanese household have taken in and modified some elements of Korean cuisine for their own table. There are many common ingredients used both in Korean and Japanese cuisine such as chilli, soy sauce and tofu.
I created this Udon & Konnyaku noodles in Korean style by following my instinct. I had very limited ingredients in my kitchen that day: a packet of pre-cooked Udon noodles which I had bought at my local M&S and put in my freezer thinking it might be useful sometime. In Japan, Udon is so widely available that I would not dream about saving it in a freezer. So, I was a little skeptical about it but having eaten it, I can surely recommend frozen Udon. Firstly, It cooks quickly in microwave and leaves no mess! I like Soba noodles but it can be very messy. I was told by my mother not to worry about a mess but let the soba noodles boil up twice. Fresh or dried Udon is not as bad as soba but it does boil up like pasta. Secondly, this microwaved Udon had firm texture just as I hoped. Udon noodles make substantial meals as they are much thicker than egg noodles or soba, chewy and bouncy. It is also very versatile as it can take a big bold taste like this Korean inspired recipe. It could also be enjoyed with thin but delicate umami-rich clear stock called dashi.
I used 2 nests of konnyaku noodle (50g) together with 275g cooked Udon to make 3 people's light meal. This ratio can also be altered. Konnayku noodle is transparent when soaked in hot water and then it is dyed in the colour of the sauce in which it is cooked. It gives pretty and appetising look to the dish. As for health benefits and nutrition, I would not get tired of repeating them! Konnyaku is rich in fibre, low calorie, low fat, sugar or salt. It is clinically proven cure for type 2 Diabetes and also it helps lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. Japanese have eaten it for over millennia! In modern life-style and change of diet, it is not consumed as much as in past. It is a time to bring konnyaku back on our table!
Miso is another magic ingredient. I think my impression is correct that traditionally Miso soup was served at every meal in Japanese average household. What you can put in Miso soup is so wide-ranged that it might be quicker to list up what you definitely cannot put! Any vegetables in my fridge seem to be fine in miso soup (I have not tried tomato but it is debatable whether tomato should be kept in fridge or not, isn’t it?) Bacon is perfect -I will come back to it in a separate blog to introduce Okinawan pork soup. Traditional Okinawan diet is renowned for making people live over 100 years most likely in the world. We can be prepared a similar soup in England using bacon and Miso. Miso is fermented soya bean paste with salty taste and sweet aroma. The most common use of miso is in soup and stock but It can be eaten as a dip with vegetable sticks. It would be best not to cook miso if you would like to enjoy its live culture. However, cooked miso also gives out lots of umami and works to combine ingredients in, say, vegetarian burgers.
Miso I used here is what it called ‘white miso’ (although it is not white at all. Brown but in comparison, it is the palest.) It is produced in Nagano, my native city in Japan. I nearly screamed when I first found it in England!
Ingredients: To serve 3
275g pack of pre-cooked Udon noodles
2 nests of dried konnyaku noodles
A small carrot cut in matchsticks
1/6 of pointed cabbage shredded
A handful of bean sprout (if available)
100g minced pork/chicken/vegetarian meat
3 poached eggs (optional)
Sauce- 1 red chilli sliced thinly, 1 tsp Grated ginger, 2 tbsp of Miso, Mirin and water each,1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of Oil of your choice such as groundnut, sunflower, sesame, olive etc.
Nori, toasted sesame seeds, shichimi chilli powder to garnish
Step1. Soak konnyaku noodles in boiling water.
- Without oil, fry minced pork/chicken. Use little oil if you are using vegetarian meat. When cooked, keep it aside.
- Heat the oil in the same wok or frying pan and start frying vegetables. Start from the carrot. When cooked, add cabbage and other vegetables.
- Cook the Udon noodles following the method on the package. Mix with other ingredients in the wok.
- Serve in warm dishes. Drop a poached egg (your choice!) Sprinkle torn pieces of nori, sesame seeds or shichimi chilli powder.
If you do not have all ingredients to go with, it does not mater at all. You can replace cabbage with spinach, moyashi (sprouted beans) with pak choi, sesame oil with groundnut oil or other oil of your choice. Mix and Match!