Tanabata is a summertime festivals which pays tribute to bittersweet star-crossed love between the weaver and the cow herder, represented by the constellations of Vega and Altair respectively. Destined to meet only once a night out of the year, these two celestial lovers are celebrated on the night of Tanabata – where it is believed that dreams and wishes come true. Colored paper inscribed with wishes are adorned to a bamboo branch and the night of Tanabata has a certain magical quality of the mysterious and unknown.
When it comes to Tanabata, soumen is the traditional noodle to eat. Delicate and white it represents the Milky Way the plate with star-studded vegetables to guide the appetite.
1/3 container soumen
1 Japanese cucumber, julienned
2 pieces ham, julienned
3 okra, sliced thin
5 mini tomatoes, cut in half
½ carrot, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon crushed sesame
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, lightly salted. While the water is boiling, prepare the sauce of the noodles. Combine sugar, soy sauce, and mirin.
2. Boil the noodles and once cooked, drain and run under cold water to cool immediately and soak in a large bowl full of ice water for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the egg. Whisk 1 egg with a dash of water in a small bowl. Heat a small frying pan to medium-high and grease with oil. Once the pan is hot, add the eggs and allow them to cook in a single layer. Once the bottom layer is cooked through, use a spatula to flip. Once cooked, let the eggs cool on a plate or paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, slice into thin strips and set aside.
4. Drain the noodle and arrange either a) in a large bowl or b) divided in separate bowls. Adorn the top with the cucumber, ham, okra, tomatoes, carrot, and egg.
鮭茸うどんあんかけ Shake Kinoko Udon Ankake
Ankake is a generic term for a starchy, savory sauce that is served atop rice or noodles. It is considered a Chinese-style dish, and its variations are endless. Throughout Japan, different cities are known for different types of ankake. For example, Nagoya is known for ankake pasta or spaghetti, while Nagasaki is known for an anakake variant called sara udon. Most often ankake includes seafood, Napa cabbage and some type of fish cake. Our ankake features salmon, an autumn fish, and mushrooms—ingredients associated with the season. The Japanese word for salmon is sake, and is believed to originate from the verb sakeru, or “to tear.” Before its popularity grew as a sushi ingredient, salmon was always cooked. (Serves 2-3)
½ pound salmon steak
½ medium carrot, medium julienned
½ medium onion, medium julienned
¼ small napa cabbage, medium julienned
1 3.5 oz package maitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped into bite-size pieces
1 3.5 oz package shimeji mushrooms, ends cut off
1 14 oz. package udon noodles
1 3/4 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon dashi granules
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Black pepper to taste
Chopped green onions to taste
Large frying pan, bowl, medium saucepan, small bowl
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Coat a piece of aluminum foil big enough to hold the salmon and any run-off juices with cooking spray. Salt the salmon generously on both sides, and place on the foil on a baking sheet.
2. Bake the salmon for 10 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked through (a little raw in places won’t hurt it, as it will be getting sautéed again in the vegetable mixture).
3. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of cooking oil in a large frying pan, and sauté the carrot, onion and cabbage until slightly softened. Then, add both mushrooms, and continue to sauté until tender. (Avoid browning.)
4. Once the salmon is cooked through, remove the skin (if there is any), and gingerly cut the salmon into bite-size pieces. Transfer to the frying pan with the vegetables ,and gently stir to incorporate.
5. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, and cook the udon noodles according to the instructions. (If they are fresh, their cooking time will be marginal. If they are dried, I recommend beginning the boiling process after step 1. It’s okay if they are drained and cool slightly before serving —the sauce will add moisture.)
6. Add the 1 1/2 cups water, dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sake to the salmon-vegetable mixture, and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer the fish and vegetables for a few minutes to allow them to soak up the flavors.
7. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup water, and add to the frying pan. Continue to simmer, stirring the mixture gently.
8. Drain the udon, and serve in a wide bowl. Top the udon with hot fish and vegetables, being sure to spoon generous amounts of the ankake sauce on top.
Garnish with black pepper and onions.