Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Niku Udon

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Though it's one of my favorite cuisines, I've always been a little hesitant to write about Japanese cuisine for this column. Much of that apprehension is due to the use of dashi, a stock made from dried bonito flakes and kelp. You can't exactly buy a quart of dashi at most grocery stores, and I worried about powdered mixes. But I guess I never realized that a very good dashi can actually be made in about thirty minutes, and with that base, a udon dish can be whipped up in mere minutes.

I'll be doing this far more often because I'm absolutely stunned by this recipe from Takashi's Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi. This beef-topped udon dish is complex and slightly rich, with just a tinge of sweetness in each spoonful. The thinly sliced beef cooks in seconds, and the tofu and scallions need all of a minute before they're ready to go. It's so good I've made it twice in the past 24 hours. Like I mentioned, it's actually really easy once you have the dashi. The only hard part is tracking down the kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) that are used to prepare it. Luckily, they can be purchased in bulk from most Asian grocery stores, and can be stored for months. Plus, you can make a big batch of dashi and then freeze the extra, much like you can do with chicken stock.

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