UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL
Nikumiso Udon

The one (and only) thing that I miss about the disgustingly humid temperatures in Tokyo is the arrival of cold noodle dishes on menus everywhere. During the hot months of June through September, I would convince myself that I deserved a daily reward of a big bowl of cold noodles for surviving each hot day. There are many hiyashi-men (cold noodle) dishes, but the most common ones are zaru soba, somen, hiyashi chuka and nikumiso udon.

Hiyashi, means "chilled." A Japanese food-lover may be reminded of other dishes that use variations of that word including hiyayakko (cold tofu), ohiya (ice water), hiya-sake (cold sake). During the hot summer months, hiyashi and hiya is a selling-point and people gravitate towards these menu items to temporarily relieve themselves from salaryman-stuffed subways and sweat-spattered sidewalks.

Since I have already posted recipes for zaru soba and somen on Japanify, I will start out this two-part series by introducing a recipe for nikumiso udon (miso-meat udon). This sweet and spicy dish is a favorite among children because the flavors are simple. The textures in the dish are satisfying during the heat--crispy cucumbers and crumbly meat with slippery noodles.

The miso that many people use for nikumiso is called hatcho miso, which is popular in Nagoya. It is black in color and is fermented for much longer than regular aka (red) and shiro (white) misos. Since I don't regularly stock my fridge with hatcho miso, I decided to use aka miso for my nikumiso udon. Although the meat mixture doesn't come out very dark in color, I was happy with the taste of my final product.

Nikumiso (Miso-Meat) Udon

INGREDIENTS

2 servings udon
1/2 lb. ground chicken or pork
1 tsp salad oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Japanese or Persian cucumber julienned

Sauce
2 tbsp miso (aka or hatcho)
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp chili sauce (hunan style or tobanjan)

METHOD

1. Julienne cucumbers and set aside in fridge.

Nikumiso Udon

2. Mix ingredients for sauce in a bowl or cup.

Nikumiso Udon

3. Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Cook udon.

4. Drain the udon and flush with cold water. Prepare an ice bath for the udon and place the strainer full of noodles in the ice bath.

5. In a pan, heat oil on high. Add the meat and break it up with a spatula. Fry the meat for 4-5 minutes. Dial down the heat to medium-low.

Nikumiso Udon

6. Add sauce to the pan with meat in it. Mix the meat around until it is well coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat.

Nikumiso Udon

7. Strain the cold udon noodles.

8. Take a handful of noodles and place them into a bowl. Top with meat on one side and cucumbers on the other.

Nikumiso Udon

Mix it up well when eating so the flavors evenly coat each noodle.

Nikumiso Udon

This dish is a real treat on a sunny day off. I can imagine inviting four or five friends over on a Sunday afternoon and enjoying nikumiso udon and a six-pack of beer in the backyard.

Stay tuned next week for Hiyashi Chuka (cold ramen salad), as we continue Japanify's Summer Slurp Series.
Column: Japanify
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8 comments

  • Oh wow Yoko, I wish I was at your house right now.

    Tomo on

  • this is a great post. i was thinking of making one tonight. looking forward to Hiyashi Chuka post, too!

    mika on

  • Yeah, it would probably work well with somen too, although somen seems pretty delicate for a meat-based sauce. Udon works well for me because both the udon and meat requires the same amount of mastication. I’ll try it with somen sometime though, might be good in the sense that the sauce will have more noodle surface area to cover.

    yoko on

  • Just made nikumiso. I feel using somen may work better. I found udon to be a bit too thick. Oh, forgot to say, as usual I didn’t measure and mine was a lot thicker than what it looks on your post.

    yamahomo on

  • Thanks Mika and Tomo! Yes, stay tuned for next week’s hiyashi chuka post.

    yoko on

  • Just made this and it is my new favorite!!! Mine turned a bit orange, I think from the tobanjan. It’s like Mabo Udon, hoorayyyy!!!

    I also added ginger to mine, and dried chili. It is spicy.

    One thing—Hideko advised me once to not cook with sesame oil, because it is not good for you. Instead, she pours a bit over the top, at the very END of stir frying anything, for the sesame aroma to come through. She says that this way, the sasame flavor comes through, without all the sesame oil heaviness from cooking with it.

    Not sure if this is a correct technique, or if actually cooking with sesame oil is actually best for other reasons besides just the taste.

    Thoughts?

    Kayoko on

  • the chewy bounce factor (hagotai) is really important to me too, which is why i never crave somen.

    Kayoko on

  • I totally made this after I saw a picture of it posted on facebook. I could not resist. It was amazing. Cucumbers are back in season at the farmer’s market too, so I used some of my homemade pickles. I also used pork from the River Dog Farm (who feeds their pigs ice cream from Three Twins!!! ). Such a delicious meal I had.

    Also, I just discovered the best udon noodles I could buy at Berkeley Bowl (the one on Oregon Street). They are the ones in the freezer that come four in a pack. They are so chewy and satisfying to eat. Definitely try them if you have not.

    Mara Cao on

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