Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The perfect summer lunch

I love noodles. In the winter, there is nothing I enjoy more than a steamy bowl of pho+? or ramen. And in the summer, there are few things that can be as refreshing as a bowl of ice-cold chilled noodles. The Koreans and the Japanese both have well-developed cold soup noodles, and I love both of them very, very much. I find myself indulging in either the Korean Mul Neng Myun or some rendition of cold Japanese noodles on a weekly basis every summer.

I admit - these cold noodles are not for everyone. The Mogurin, one of the most advanced Asian food converts, is not a big fan of cold noodles. It reminds him of worms, and despite my many attempts at breaking down his resistance, he still prefers his noodles warm. But I swear - cold noodles on a steamy hot afternoon, sitting outside on a sunny day with a pre-chilled bowl filled with ice and noodles - that's a savory summer treat like no other!

Although there are many, many types of Japanese noodles, I find myself making udon most frequently. That's partly due to my mother sending me what appeared to be a life time supply eight years ago. Yes, EIGHT years ago. I am still using the same box of dried noodles. Thankfully, my stock is starting to dwindle down and I might be able to justify purchasing non-udon noodles soon...

I make my cold udon by cooking it in hot water until desired softness - for me, this is firm. I like my noodles chewy, whether it is udon, ramen, or neng myun (one of the reasons I love neng myun so much is because of its firmness). The key step in enjoying any kind of udon is in the post-cooking step. One must wash the hell off of it - scrub it like dirty laundry (sans soap, of course). Udon has a lot of excess gluten that needs to be washed off for its true beauty to come out. This process is necessary even when I am making warm udon. In that case, I have another pot of boiling water, which I blanch the udon in after the scrubbing. For cold udon, I just drop the noodles into a pre-chilled bowl filled with ice water.

I make the dashi while the water for the noodles is in progress. It's just a simple dipping soup with bonito broth, and mirin, soy sauce. I chill this in the freezer in the dishware I am serving it in while the noodles cook. By the time the whole process is done, a perfectly chilled dashi is ready for dipping!

Cool, refreshing, easy, and deeply satisfying, a bowl of cold udon is PERFECT for an outdoor summer lunch on a lazy weekend!


The Papa Bear said...

I admit that cold noodles is an acquired taste. I still remember the first time I ordered cold noodles by accident at a Korean restaurant; it was on a rainy day, no less.

All it took, though, was a reset of my expectation and I was able to enjoy it for what it was.

Now, I like cold noodles on hot (or rainy) summer (or not) days.

Uchipu said...

Aha! Secrets revealed...I've asked Bubi many times to make her own udon. I guess the lifetime supply of easy udons are preventing her from doing the "work" - hehe.

Funny...David doesn't like cold noodles either... Yet recently, he has stepped a little into cold Soba Noodles. He says Soba has more flavor.

Alice said...

Papa and Uchipu,

Now that the stash of dried noodles are dwindling, it's time to get those big plastic bags out for stepping on our own homemade udon dough!