Lockdown2 means that I need to find new dishes to cook and eat without being able to travel. And whilst I love Japanese food it’s not something I have ever cooked. So when my daughter introduced me to her Vegan Japaneasy cookbook by Tim Anderson I thought I would give it a try. It’s really not easy finding Japanese ingredients in rural Northern Italy so I started by making a Japanese curry roux which is often sold in solid cubes and forms the basis of many Japanese ramen and udon noodle dishes. But using a combination of spices, soy sauce and good quality vegetable stock cubes I’ve managed to get somewhere close to the real thing…and even if it isn’t it still tastes really good!
For the curry roux
6 tbsp oil, preferably vegetable or coconut 1 small onion finely diced 1/2 a ripe banana, diced 1 tbsp tomato purée 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter 2 tbsp plain flour 2 tbsp curry powder 2 tbsp garam masala
For the ramen noodle soup
A bunch of pak choi A handful of mushrooms A small head of broccoli A packet of thin egg noodles A good quality vegetable stock cube Dark soy sauce, around 2-3 tbsp but more if you want! Chilli sauce and/or flakes to taste
Begin by making the Japanese curry roux.
Heat the oil and sauté the diced onion until it just starts to turn brown. Add the diced banana and cook until it browns and starts to fall apart slightly.
Then add all the spices, flour, tomato purée and peanut butter and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the spices have softened. I added some vegetable stock at this point as the mixture was very thick and I didn’t want to add yet more oil but you could also just add water. The aim is to make the roux easy to use but the flavour will still be very concentrated.
This recipe will make enough for two portions so I poured the sauce into a jar using one half for the ramen noodle soup and kept the rest in the fridge for a week to use in an udon noodle recipe. Alternatively any space sauce can be frozen for up to three months.
Now you have the basis of numerous Japanese dishes at your disposal. I love noodles so I decided to make a noodle ramen soup but you can also use it for katsu curry – watch this space!
Making ramen noodle soup is very quick and a perfect lunch when you have been on Zoom calls all morning…
Roughly chop the vegetables. I used pak choi (also known as bok choi here in Italy), broccoli and mushroom but you could also use bean spouts, spinach, tofu, carrots…it’s really up to you!
In a large pan heat up a litre of water with a good quality stock cube, half of the Japanese curry roux, the soy sauce and a splash of chill sauce. I like my soup with a proper kick so I also added some chopped red chilli and a few chill flakes. Throw in the vegetables and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Finally add the dried noodles and cook according to the instructions on the packet (usually around 3-5 minutes).
Once the noodles are cooked you just need to check that you are happy with the depth of soy taste and heat. Enjoy!