While fat udon noodles topped with a curry sauce can be found all over Japan its thinner sibling soup-curry udon is more commonly served in Hokkaido – Japan’s northernmost island, which suffers the extremes of winter. Commonly a selection of seasonal vegetables are fried or grilled and served as garnishes to noodles surrounded by a broth-like curry.
- 2 tbsp Japanese roasted sesame oil
- 500 g piece of pork belly, cut into 4 thick, even slices (see Note)
- 1 brown onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1.5 cm thick half moons
- 10 cm length of daikon (giant white radish), peeled and cut into 1.5 cm thick half moons
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp Japanese S&B curry powder
- 1 tsp shichimi togarashi (7 flavour spice mix), plus extra for serving
- 2 litres (8 cups) dashi
- 1 tbsp Japanese usukuchi (light) soy
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) mirin
- 1 small, firm eggplant
- 300g Kent or Jap pumpkin, cut into 4 even slices
- 8 snow peas, trimmed and blanched
- 800 g fresh udon noodles (see Note)
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large, heavy based pot over medium to high heat. Brown the pork belly well on all sides, remove and set aside. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly for 5 minutes or until soft and lightly golden.
Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and shichimi togarashi to the onions and stir briefly until aromatic. Add the dashi, soy and mirin and stir to combine. Return the pork to the pot with the carrots and daikon and bring the liquid to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 hour then carefully remove the carrot and daikon and set aside. Cook for further 15 mins or until the pork is tender but not falling apart. Remove the pork and set aside. When cool, cut each piece through in half - into 2 thinner slices. Strain the broth, reserving the liquid and discarding any solids.
Meanwhile, cut the eggplant in half down it’s length then into 2cm thick half moons. Put a large frypan over a medium high heat. Brush the eggplant and pumpkin slices on both sides with the remaining sesame oil and cook until tender and lightly browned – approximately 2-3 minutes on each side for the eggplant and up to 5 minutes each side for the pumpkin. Cover to keep warm.
When ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Loosen the udon noodles and add to the pot and when the water boils again cook the udon for around 3-4 minutes or according to manufacturers instructions until al dente. Drain the noodles, rinse quickly with cold running water – rubbing lightly to remove any starch and divide between 4 deep, wide bowls.
Meanwhile put the curry broth in a clean saucepan and bring to the boil.
Put a quarter of the carrot and daikon mixture in a neat bundle to one side of the bowl over the udon then neatly arrange the pork, eggplant and pumpkin slices over the top slightly covering the daikon and carrot, insert the snow peas decoratively. Divide the curry soup mixture over the noodles. Garnish with chopped spring onions and serve. Offer additional shichimi togarashi for sprinkling over.
• You can use udon packet noodles that you can purchase from an Asian supermarket.
• Chicken thigh meat or stewing beef can be used instead of pork just adjust the cooking time as needed.
• Japanese ingredients are readily available at Japanese or Asian grocery stores or supermarkets.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.