The Ultimate Japanese Noodles Cookbook
By Masahiro Kasahara (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2022, 96 pp., $15.99, hard cover)
When people think about Japanese noodles, they will likely be thinking of ramen, udon or soba, served in a hot broth. Through “The Ultimate Japanese Noodles Cookbook,” Masahiro Kasahara extends far beyond your traditional bowl of Japanese noodles and throws in global influences and different noodles to delve into some truly creative flavor profiles.
The recipes range from fast and easy one-pot wonders to big, hot pot-style meals. Kasahara shows the versatility of noodles not just through the range of noodles and flavors, but through its utility as a meal. Kasahara shows that noodles are forgiving by including recipes that can feed a crowd, as well as recipes that will use up half portions or leftover noodles.
Anyone who grew up eating udon will find classic udon recipes, like beef udon or tenpura soba, as well as the nostalgic dishes of their youth like curry udon, yaki-udon, but the must-try recipes are the variations. Kasahara pushes the range of ways noodles can be prepared, showcasing how noodles can be comforting, refreshing, surprising, savory or just downright decadent.
Kasahara blends Japanese noodles with different global flavor profiles, and also does the reverse, bringing Japanese ingredients and flavors to different styles of noodles. The pasta recipes have distinct Japanese café influences, and the fettuccine with Chicken and Burdock Root Cream Sauce is a take on Japanese-style soup-spaghetti, a popular way of eating pasta in Japan, or the Chilled Rice Vermicelli with Mentaiko (tarako). Somen-style Naengmyon takes the best elements of a Korean noodle and combines them with the accouterments that are beloved by man of a cold somen on a hot day.
Some more comforting, yet less familiar combinations include the Tomato Egg Udon and Creamy Turnip and Enoki Mushroom Nyuumen. Both dishes give comfort food style vibes while using.
Other comforting and savory options include the White miso, Tomato and Mushroom Penne, as well as the Udon Smothered in Meat Sauce. The combinations might seem a little unconventional, but the tastes will include the components that hit all the comfort-food notes you are seeking.
Feeling adventurous? Try the Fermented Fish and Sprout pasta with “shuto,” a dish that eats more as an appetizer, or for a cold option, the Cold Citrus soba — a cold bowl of soba just covered with thinly sliced sudachi (citrus fruit). Just the scent alone will make your mouth water.
And finally, sometimes we just want something easy. Creamy Egg Sauce Udon, or the Egg Drop Udon will fit the bill here, and can be made with only a few ingredients.
Whether you are looking for a solid recipe on a classic favorite, or an entirely new way to use the frozen noodles that are sitting in your freezer, Kasahara will show you how to level-up your noodle game.