Warm up in winter with thick, satisfying udon noodles served in a donabe or ceramic pot that holds in the heat. What makes nabeyaki udon different from a typical bowl of udon noodles is twofold: 1. the use of the donabe and 2. the ingredients that top the udon. Sometimes a bowl of udon noodles is enjoyed plain and simple, with nothing else but the savory broth. Maybe a scattering of scallions. A few slices of kamaboko, fish cake. Done.
Nabeyaki Udon involves additional ingredients like fresh spinach, fried shrimp tempura, sliced cooked pork or beef, shredded chicken and even mochi for a more substantial, nutritious meal. Optionally, a raw egg is cracked into the individual donabe just before serving. The nabemono is critical because the ceramic holds in the heat of the broth to poach the egg.
Each member of my family has his own individual donabe with lid. I use the ceramic pots for more than nabemono dishes because they keep food warm and look nice on the table. Plus, by serving up individual portions, we’re less tempted to overeat from communal serving dishes (we are Americans with heartier appetites than our Japanese ancestors!) Some people preheat the donabe in a warm oven or on a stovetop. Just be sure to place the filled donabe on a hot pad and not directly onto a dining table or they will scorch the wood or possibly break glass.
2 quarts dashi
˝ cup shoyu
2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin or sweet cooking wine (*sake may be substituted)
2 tsp. ajinomoto
˝ tsp. salt
8 sliced kamaboko
2 bunches fresh spinach
2 scallions or negi Japanese leeks, sliced
4 servings cooked udon noodles
cooked meat (shredded chicken, sliced pork or beef, shrimp tempura)
In a large pot of boiling water, cook dried udon noodles until tender but not soggy. Drain.
Wash fresh spinach thoroughly. Pat the leaves dry.
In another deep pot, combine dashi, shoyu, sugar, mirin, ajinomoto and salt. Bring this to a simmer.
Heat four individual donabe in a 325 degree oven for about ten minutes or place them over a very low flame. Alternatively, you can preheat them by adding hot water, covering the pots with their lids and letting this sit for five minutes. Drain water.
Place individual servings of cooked udon into each donabe. Arrange some spinach, scallions and your choice of cooked meats, tempura or mochi on the noodles, keeping each ingredient in its own section of the bowl. Pour in hot broth. Crack an egg into the center of the dish and quickly cover with the donabe lid. Serve.