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I recently fell in love with Udon soup. I've had it at 2 different restaurants in Austin TX, and I find the broth clean and delicious. My favorite includes cucumber, carrot, a few shrimp, green onion, a and lil of tempura bits. Usually I love spicy soups, but the broth tastes so well balanced that i wouldn't really dare adding any chili, etc. I have tried to recreate it at home but the broth is not remotely similar.

I've tried making dashi broth a couple times. The second time was after a lot of internet research. I added about 4 2"x4" strips of Kombu to bout 5 cups water cold water, and brought it to near-boil over 30 minutes. I tasted and really noticed the umami flavor. But still, it tasted quite watery. I added 2 handfuls of bonito flakes (they reached boil for maybe a second) and removed from heat. Steeped 10 minutes. I could taste more fishyness now. I slowly started adding salt and it really started bringing out the fishyness, too much. I added soy a little at a time.. maybe a tablespoon all told and it was quite 'soy' tasting. not really the golden-rays-of-sunshine broth i had at the restaurant. I added a bit of mirin, maybe a tablespoon. At this point the stock tastes discordant: too fishy, too soy-like, and too salty, too sweet, and too watery.

Am I messing something up, or are these restaurants using some kind of chicken stock? I feel like I'm not in the ballpark. fwiw, I'm using light soy and sushi-chef mirin.

Any guidance/suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE: I wrote the restaurant asking what was in the broth, and if they used dashi. Here is there response: "Our soup broth is made with chicken bone, beef marrow, and assortment of vegetables that is simmered for several hours"

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It sounds like you might be missing fish sauce. Follow the link under the heading "Japanese" for Nabermono –  Jolenealaska Jan 17 at 14:52
    
Thank you for your comment. I have some good thai fish sauce here, should I add that to the dashi? I haven't read that in any of my research. My hunch is that it would add savoriness, but also more fishiness. –  telecasterrok Jan 17 at 15:49
    
Strangely, fish sauce isn't always "fishy", it is salty and savory and easily overdone. Unfortunately, I can't help much with Japanese vs Thai varieties. For that, I'd recommend your local Asian market. –  Jolenealaska Jan 17 at 16:41
    
Ok, Thank you. I will try it and report back. –  telecasterrok Jan 17 at 18:50
    
Perhaps, you missed the part about Ajinomoto, which people won't tell you about. –  Blessed Geek Jan 19 at 13:03
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

For ramen, udon, and soba, it is not uncommon for Japanese restaurants to use multiple broths for layered flavors.

My friend is from Yamagata in Japan and several of her favorite Udon places will make a sturdy broth with dashi as well as pork and chicken stocks. When I make noodles at home, I almost always start with dashi and fortify with chicken or pork stock. While the aroma of a good dashi is strong, often times it isn't solid enough to feel full-bodied. Try adding other stocks/broths and see where that gets you. Use neckbones and feet if you make your own pork stock.

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Thanks Joshie. I made some rich Japanese chicken stock last night from the recipe in Takashi's noodles. Combined with dashi, a little sake, soy, and sugar there it is! Now I can have udon at home, for cheap! –  telecasterrok Jan 18 at 17:35
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Joshie, I wrote the restaurant and their response confirms your anwser. I asked what the broth was and here is there answer: "Our soup broth is made with chicken bone, beef marrow, and assortment of vegetables that is simmered for several hours". Interestingly, I asked specifically if they used dashi and based on their response I don't think they use dashi at all (although kombu could fall under "assortment of vegetables"). –  telecasterrok Jan 22 at 19:49
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I didn't think soba/udon stock had any animal (as opposed to fish) products in it, normally. (Unlike ramen.)

This answer is based on the answer here: http://allabout.co.jp/gm/gc/216899/ (Japanese), which I found searching for a professional udon stock recipe.

Traditionally the stock is konbu-based in Western-Japan, or katsuo-bushi (dried bonito flake) based in Eastern Japan. That recipe suggests using both, as well as dried sardines, and to play with the balance until you find your favourite.

For 2 litres of water: Soak a 10cm x 10cm amount of konbu in cold water for a few hours. (In the fridge is fine) Then about 20 sardines (remove the heads first, or a bitter taste will be introduced.); soak for 30 minutes, then heat, allow it to bubble for about 5 minutes. Then add 100g of katsuo-bushi, and heat for another 15 minutes. Strain. Add about 200cc of mild soy sauce, then leave to cool, then put in the fridge. Add more soy sauce, or a pinch of salt, to get the exact colour and taste you desire.

If I've understood the article correctly, it says instead of using 200cc soy sauce you could use "udon-gaeshi", which is a mix of: 500cc mild soy sauce, 50g sugar, 60cc mirin and 50cc of sake. Heat the mirin and sake to allow the alcohol to evaporate off, then dissolve in the sugar, add the soy sauce, and turn off the heat once it starts to bubble.

There appears to be a difference between "udon-gaeshi" and "soba-gaeshi", but I'm not able to work out what it is.

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I've seen recipes that are very similar to this also calling for dried shitake mushrooms to add even more umami flavor. –  sourd'oh Jan 22 at 4:23
    
Darren, see my comment to JoshieSimmons answer above. I wrote the restaurant and they confirmed that it was seasoned chicken broth. I have pretty much been able to nail it at home using home-made chicken stock with sake soy sauce onion garlic, etc. –  telecasterrok Feb 5 at 2:31
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