This fall season, for the first time in my life, I have learned to like shiitake mushrooms, which are also known as black mushrooms in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
I have always loved ginger too—it settles the stomach and warms your insides—doesn’t it? In this broth, the ginger mellows into a savory, umami-rich stock with the qualities of a fuzzy, warm blanket.
Speaking of umami, to make this broth you simmer dried kombu seaweed and shiitake mushrooms together for about an hour. Then you strain it out, and continue with a few more Japanese seasonings, like soy sauce and miso.
Both kombu and shiitake mushrooms are rich in umami, which is the name for savory flavor.
Umami, the flavor, was coined in the early 20th century by a Japanese scientist whose investigation into the unique flavor elements of kombu seaweed led to his discovery of glutamic acid.
This umami-flavored amino acid is most commonly found in dried, cooked, fermented, and aged foods.
So hopefully this helps you to imagine the pleasing and rich flavor of this broth.
Udon Noodles And Mirin Rice Wine
I suspect a few of you reading this were attracted by the Udon noodles in the name of the recipe. Who doesn’t love udon noodles?
I am talking about those thick, wheat flour noodles you get in Japanese soups and yakisoba stir-fry. They are nice and chewy, and wholly satisfying.
You can purchase udon noodles these days from Amazon, Asian grocery stores, and even natural food stores.
Another ingredient you may be unfamiliar with is mirin. This is a type of rice wine similar to sake.
It is slightly sweet, which comes from fermentation. If you are sensitive to alcohol, be sure to look for that on the bottle (different amounts on different brands), or try to find mirin without alcohol, because it does have some.
If you wish to substitute the mirin, try a bit of rice wine vinegar, and teaspoon of sugar.
For those who are unfamiliar, miso is a Japanese paste made from fermented rice, barley, soybeans, and sometimes other grains. The type of miso you purchase determines the unique ingredient mix.
Red miso is made from soybeans, barley, and sometimes other grains. It is dark in color due to a longer fermentation process than other miso, such as brown rice miso, chickpea miso, mellow white miso, sweet white miso, and barley miso.
The Miso Master organic traditional red miso I used in this recipe is aged for twelve months in a four-ton hand-crafted Cypress, Redwood, and Fir barrel, according to the company’s website. It is pretty amazing.
The rich umami flavor of a red miso is perfect in this shiitaki-miso broth with udon and ginger.
After all, as I shared with you above, there are some bold flavors in this soup, and so it can handle a strong miso.
It is even wonderful the second day, as my dinner just proved to me. I could hardly imagine something more satisfying.
‘Meaty’ Kabocha Squash And Asian Vegetables
Many people are familiar with butternut squash, or maybe even acorn squash, but many of my friends are unfamiliar with kabocha squash.
For me though, there is hardly a day I would not prefer kabocha squash over any other option. I did not know before that it is actually a Japanese squash.
The color of kabocha is a deep, fiery orange. The texture is meaty, kind of like a sweet potato, and satisfying, much dryer than the comparatively watery butternut. The texture is what I really love, and I think you will too.
In this recipe, the squash is peeled, cut into three-quarter-inch thick pieces, tossed with vegetable oil and minced ginger, and roasted with salt.
In terms of sweetness, this squash is just a tad sweet. It’s lovely in this recipe together with bok choy, scallions, Asian pear, and fresh shiitake mushrooms.
Asian pear may be another unexpected ingredient, but I assure you it is wonderful. Asian pear is crispy and firm; not at all sweet. In the soup it is texturally a little crunchy, depending on how long you cook it for.
If you are looking for a lunch or dinner that is an antidote for the colder weather—something hearty, yet light at the same time—this is the soup for you!
Shiitake Mushroom Miso Broth with Udon and Ginger Squash
- 1/2 ounce 15 grams kombu seaweed
- 1/2 ounce 15 grams dried shiitake mushrooms
- 6 cups water
- 1 1/2 pound kabocha squash
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger root, minced (portion 1 tablespoon, 2 tablespoons)
- 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 3 tablespoons tamari
- 3 tablespoons mirin, Japanese cooking wine
- 8 ounces udon noodles
- 8 heads baby bok choy, sliced lengthwise
- half an Asian pear, sliced
- 4 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
- 3 tablespoons red miso
- sesame oil, for garnish
- Make the stock. Bring water to a boil. Simmer kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms for about an hour. Strain out the vegetables and retain the stock.
- Meanwhile, prepare the squash. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the kabocha in half. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds. Cut the skin off the squash using a large chef’s knife. Alternately, try using a peeler to remove the skin.
- Cut the squash into three-quarter inch thick slices. Toss the squash in a large bowl with the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the ginger. Line up the squash on a baking tray lined with parchment. Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely browned, turning a few times to ensure even browning. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
- Simmer the broth for about 10–15 minutes with minced ginger, shiitake mushrooms, tamari, and mirin. Add udon noodles, baby bok choy, Asian pear, and scallions, and simmer for another 3–4 minutes.
- Remove about half a cup of broth from the stock and mix it with the red miso until it is a smooth paste. Turn the heat off the broth and stir in the miso.
- Serve in wide bowls and top with squash slices and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.