© Copyright 1995-2017, Clay Irving <email@example.com>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA
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Recipe from: A Cook's Journey to Japan by Sarah Marx Feldner
From the moment we arrived at Takeko's remote A-frame mountain retreat in Nagano prefecture, her daughter Yukari was put to work preparing the chicken meatballs for this delicious soup. The meatballs were made from a frozen chicken carcass. And all activities performed that morning were underscored by the continual metronome-like banging of Yukari, out on the back porch, sledge hammer in hand, rhythmically pounding away on the carcass, which had been placed inside a pillow case. The bones breaking and crunching, breaking and crunching, until the pulverized carcass miraculously turned tender—an extraordinarily laborious task I'd never before considered. (Fortunately, the recipe that follows calls for ground chicken, instead.) It seems this frugal technique was actually an extremely hospitable gesture. As I was later informed, chicken was considered a delicacy by the war-affected generation. Thus, it was only when special guests were invited to dine that a chicken was butchered and a feast had. For such an occasion, Yukari was unfortunately estranged from the social goings-on of the morning.
4 ounce (125 g) dried udon noodles
For the meatbals:
½ pound (500 g) ground chicken
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon shichimi togarashi or ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne), or to taste
For the soup:
8 cups (2 liters) water
1 cup (100 g) shaved burdock (about 1 whole) (optional)
1 cup (60 g) sliced fresh mushrooms, preferably eringi or shiitake
One 3 x 5-in (7.5 x 12.75-cm) sheet fried tofu (abura-age), rolled in paper towel to remove excess oil, thinly sliced
½ cup (40 g) thinly sliced leek
¼ cup (65 ml) soy sauce
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon according to packaged instructions (about 8 to 10 minutes). Drain, rinse, and drain again. Set aside.
To make the meatballs, combine the ingredients in a small bowl. With damp hands, form 1 teaspoon of the mixture into a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture; you should have about 18 meatballs.
To make the Soup, bring the water to a boil in the same pot used to boil the udon. Add the burdock, if using, and the mushrooms and fried tofu. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Add the meatballs, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook 5 minutes more, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Add the leek, soy sauce and cooked udon. Cook 1 minute more to heat through.