In our house, every Wednesday night is udon night. I make the udon dough in the morning and let it sleep all day in a tea towel. When everyone gets home in the evening, I cut it into noodles with the giant udon knife, make the soup, and prepare whatever that week’s topping is. Normal toppings are things like eggs, fried shrimp, leftover curry, or slices of simmered beef. The udon that is prepared in the purple play kitchen gets more… innovative toppings. While I was cooking blueberry chicken last week, the purple play kitchen’s head chef was churning out three bowls of “strawberry lemon udon.” The next day, she made two bowls for breakfast, one lemon and one strawberry, and asked “which あじ (flavor) you wants?” I chose lemon. She said, as I tried to take notes, “it’s very sour but it’s a little bit あまい (sweet). Eat it, eat it!”
But after doing a little bit of research, it turns out that lemon udon is actually a thing. Maybe not an especially popular thing, and possibly not a very delicious thing, but definitely more common than blueberry chicken. (Strawberry udon, for the record, has also been tried by at least one person). Lemon udon is meant to be a cooling, refreshing meal for a hot summer day. Last Wednesday was a kind of chilly early spring day, but I was pretty convinced we were going to have to throw it out and order Popeyes, so I carried on anyway.
When she got home, I excitedly told her I was making lemon udon and she said, “can we go to happy hour tonight?” Not a promising start. She warmed up to the idea a little when I told her that she invented it and that’s why I was making it, but she was still very, very skeptical (as was her mother) — “but lemon is TOO SOUR!”
I based my recipe on my usual udon (which, yes, I will put on the blog eventually) and this recipe from a company that makes frozen udon products. The noodles were regular sanuki udon noodles, the soup was dashi with salty usukuchi soy sauce and mirin, and the toppings were minced lemon (guh?), lemon slices, grated daikon, and some decorative watercress leaves. I used almost two entire lemons for three — really two and a half — bowls of udon, and felt quite certain that it was going to taste exactly like it looked, like a bowl of lemon soup.
But it was… delicious? It really was. The noodles and soup are both quite salty, and the daikon has a kind of sharp flavor, all of which made the lemon actually taste as cool and refreshing as the recipes claimed it would. It would probably be even better with cold noodles and soup in the middle of July. The three year old, of course, picked up a lemon slice, bit into it, declared it “SOUR!” and retreated to the safety of the plate of fried sweet potatoes. Eventually she figured out that the sliced lemons are for flavoring and decoration, not for chomping on, and said, “mmm it’s good, thank you for making this, can I have nachspeise (dessert).”
But, whatever! I’m definitely adding this to my udon menu, and plan to spend most summer udon nights eating this outside while drinking watermelon-flavored beer (which is a real thing and not a creation of the play kitchen).
- 3 servings of udon — Either fresh or frozen noodles (don’t buy dried udon).
- 350ml dashi — Either fresh or from the dashi-no-moto powder.
- 70ml usukuchi soy sauce — Usukuchi is light soy sauce, which is actually saltier than the regular one.
- 70ml mirin
- 1.5 lemons
- Half a large daikon
- Some decorative greens — I used some watercress leaves.
- Grate the daikon and squeeze out most but not all of the juice.
- Peel the half lemon and mince the fruit.
- With the other lemon, cut into very thin slices (without peeling).
- Mix dashi, soy sauce, and mirin together and heat.
- Cook the udon according to the recipe or package.
- In each bowl, add one serve of udon and put the daikon and minced lemon on top. Pour in an appropriate amount of sauce, then artfully arrange the lemon slices and decorative greens on top.
Mix everything together and eat. Since there was already minced lemon in there, I didn’t actually eat the lemon slices, I just kind of mixed them around to make it more lemony.