This hearty meal-in-a-bowl soup is a perfect antidote to even the coldest of winter days. In Japan, restaurants and many homes have individual nabé casseroles made specially for cooking and serving this and similar dishes. These glazed ceramic casseroles can withstand the heat of direct contact with burners. Occasionally I’ve seen these Japanese casseroles for sale in the United States, though often they’re of a larger size that might hold four portions at once. So that everyone can enjoy this fabulous soup, I’ve given instructions in this recipe for several different kinds of equipment.
Bring 6 or more quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large stock pot. If you’ve been lucky enough to find fresh udon noodles, add them and cook for 8 minutes after the water returns to a boil or until each noodle is barely tender: firm but with no hard core at the center. The noodles will be briefly cooked again later. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water and drain again.
If you’re using dried noodles, cook them in a very large pot in at least
Peel and devein the shrimp. Stir the rice wine and cornstarch until well combined, in a small dish just large enough to hold the shrimp. Add the shrimp and marinate them in the wine and cornstarch mixture for 3–4 minutes while bringing several cups of water to a rolling boil in a small pot. Add the shrimp to the boiling water, stir, and wait 1 minute before straining them through a small colander or strainer. Set aside while you finish making the other toppings.
Rinse the spinach and shake dry. Divide the spinach into two bundles and tie the stems of each with kitchen twine. In a wide-mouthed, shallow pot bring about
Break each of the four eggs into its own small bowl, being careful not to puncture the yolks. Cover the eggs and set aside.
Rinse the enokidaké mushrooms under cold water and trim off the bottom halves of the stems. Pat the mushrooms dry and divide into four portions.
The Japanese use individual heat-proof casseroles with lids to finish cooking and serving this soup. If you have them, or any
If you don’t have individual cooking casseroles, you’ll need to poach the eggs separately before assembling the soup. Heat through the seasoned broth and add the cooked noodles. Just as the soup reaches a boil, remove it from the stove. Immediately divide the soup and noodles among four deep soup bowls. Place a poached egg and blanched shrimp on top of the noodles in each bowl, then add some mushrooms and spinach to each serving, gently submerging these last two beneath the piping-hot soup. Serve at once.
Since this soup would be difficult and messy to serve at the table from a large communal pot, I don’t recommend making this dish in a single large casserole. Rather, you might take advantage of a microwave oven to heat preassembled individual bowls of soup with their toppings. In that case, divide the cooked noodles among four deep soup bowls. Gently lay a poached egg, a blanched shrimp, a portion of mushrooms, and a bundle of spinach over each bowl of noodles. Pour the seasoned broth over all, being careful not to break the yolk. Cover each bowl with clear plastic wrap and place in a microwave. Set the oven for “boil” for 15 seconds. Remove the plastic wrap and serve at once.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.