Dec 29, 2010


December is also called the month of teachers running.  There are the year end preparations for Joyagama, the last tea gathering of the year as well as time to plan one of the biggest tea celebrations of the year, Hatsugama or New Year's tea gathering.

When I lived in Kyoto, I could not afford to return home for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, so I was invited to participate with the Urasenke Sen Family in Joyagama on New Year's eve.   It was a small gathering with just the family, and a few friends. We all fit into the Mushikiken tea room and Hounsai Daisosho himself served us hot water and made tea for us.  It was intimate and very special.

We will have Hatsugama this year on Sunday, January 9.  It is the year of the rabbit, and the chokudai, or poetic theme is "leaves".  

I wish all of you a Happy New Year, and thank you for reading.

Dec 15, 2010

The season for Udon

Cold and rainy weather make it an ideal time for udon noodles.  When I lived in Kyoto, ankake udon was one of my favorite winter time dishes.  Ankake udon soup is thickened with starch and grated ginger adds a zing and warmth.  I love the big fat noodles and you can add your own garnishes to suit your own taste.

We recently had a meeting to re-start our Japanese tea garden project at Ryokusuido.  Part of the meeting was making and eating udon.

Below is a recipe for ankake udon from one of my former students, Ikuko.  Thank you for teaching us.

Ankake Udon (recipe for 2 people)
Make dashi soup stock. You can do this one of three ways:
  1. From scratch:  for each 2 1/2 cups of water use a piece of dried konbu (kelp seaweed) 2" x 1". Wipe konbu with a clean damp cloth and place in pot of cold water. Bring to boil.  Just before water boils, remove and discard konbu.  Add 1/2 cup of katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and remove from heat.  Strain any foam that forms on the surface.  Let bonito flakes settle to the bottom.  Let steep for a few minutes then strain through several layers of cheesecloth. 
  2. Use dashi powder (hon-dashi or dashi-no-moto) following package directions.  Try to find one without MSG.
  3. Use a combination of konbu and dashi powder.
Make Udon soup:
For every 2 1/2 cups of dashi stock add:
2T sake
2T mirin
2T shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 t salt
Adjust the combination above to your own taste.

Then mix a paste of
2 1/2 T of katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch
4T of water
Stir slowly and gently into the heated stock. The soup will begin to thicken, allow to simmer gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Cook udon noodles in boiling salted water until done (approx. 8-10 minutes). Drain.

To serve, put Udon noodles in a bowl, add soup and garnish with 1/2 to 1 t. of fresh grated ginger, 2T of finely sliced green onions, and shichimi (blended hot peppers) to taste. Sliced shiitake mushrooms cooked in dashi, and/or fried tofu squares may be added.  Other vegetables (also cooked in dashi) can be added for additional garnish.