Tanuki Soba

This recipe is a Japanese-style heartwarming dish. I asked Shuho-san our resident Japanese monk what he would call this at home? Tanuki, he said. What is that? I asked. It’s a small mythical creature (like a racoon), and when we serve it with Udon, it’s called Kitsune (a mythical fox).
The name certainly adds a mysterious overtone to this recipes deep earthy complex flavours.

If you don’t have Soba noodles, thin spaghetti will work fine. For the broth, a mushroom stock might work if dried shitake are hard to get, but I haven’t tried it myself!

Ingredients

300 g (10 oz) soba or udon noodles
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
250 g (2½ cups) chestnut mushrooms
350 g (⅓ head) Chinese cabbage
250 g (1 block) cotton (firm) or silk tofu
Olive oil for frying
3 stems green onions

Dashi / Broth
1¼ litres (5 cups) water
8 cm (3”) square of good quality dried konbu (kelp) seaweed
20 g (6-8) dried shitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
Ground red chillies (Togarashi)

Method

  • In a large pot, bring 2 litres (2 quarts) of water to the boil on a medium flame. Sprinkle in the noodles, return to the boil, and stir to separate the strands. Simmer for about three minutes over a low flame, or until al dente. Drain and rinse well with cold running water, rubbing the strands together to remove excess starch. Set aside.
  • Peel and mince the garlic.
  • Peel and thinly slice the onion and carrot, cutting the carrots diagonally.
  • Medium-slice the mushrooms.
  • Large-dice the Chinese cabbage.
  • Medium dice the tofu.
  • Thinly slice the green onions and put them into a small serving bowl.

  • To make the dashi put the kombu and shitake in a pot with the water. Leave them to soak overnight or for half an hour. Place the pot on a low flame and slowly bring to the boil. As it starts to boil, remove the kombu and shitake, and slice both thinly. Put only the shitake back into the pot. 
  • Meanwhile, in a frying pan on a medium flame, heat up some olive oil. Add the garlic and fry until golden. Set aside. Add a little more oil and caramelize the onions. Next, fry the mushrooms until their juices start to release. Set aside.
  • Drop the carrots into the simmering dashi and cook until tender. Then add the cabbage, onions, mushrooms, kombu, garlic, tofu, mirin, sake, and soy sauce. Simmer for one minute and season to taste.

  • Re-heat the the soba noodles by covering them with fresh boiling water.
  • To serve; using a slotted spoon, scoop out a serving of hot soba noodles into a soup or noodle bowl and cover with a ladle of broth and vegetables. Sprinkle with green onions and ground chillies.

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