A deliciously fragrant recipe for miso udon noodle soup. Suitable for vegans. A great recipe to encourage noodle-loving kids to try something new.
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Unusually for this blog there’s nothing sneaky or hidden about the vegetables in this miso udon noodle soup. The very fact that I was brave enough to serve this up shows how far we’ve come since I started this blog in 2013.
Back then this dish would have caused all hell to break loose. Today R, 6, gobbled this up (much to my shock). Baby S wasn’t keen on the noodles but ate the veg. Sadly Miss R, 4, wasn’t keen – but she’d pretty much made her mind up she didn’t like it before she’d even seen it.
She did agree to try it if I let her have ketchup with it. But even when she’d turned it into a horrible red mess she still didn’t like it. Perhaps unsurprisingly – I doubt the ketchup did anything for the flavour!
I’m always trying new dishes with my little picky eaters
I am always up for the challenge of trying to feed my little picky eaters something new even if I often feel nervous before I serve it up and I can never predict what the result is going to be. While I was making this miso udon noodle soup – which my kids had never had before – I started to wonder about what Japanese children eat.
What do Japanese children eat?
A friend of mine has a Japanese friend. Her name is Hisako. She is an awesome illustrator and designer so take a look at her site to be wowed. I got in touch with her to ask her what Japanese kids like to eat, and what they are fed as babies.
I wondered if Japanese people have special baby food – an equivalent to our purées – or whether they practice something more similar to baby led weaning.
Japanese babies are often weaned on rice broth
I would have guessed the latter, but I was wrong. It turns out that most Japanese babies are weaned on rice broth. It’s nothing like the baby rice that we get over here from a packet. This broth is made with extra water so that each grain breaks down during the cooking process making it easier to digest. It’s then common for them to move onto puréed food. As they get older the food gets lumpier and more flavours are used until eventually the whole family eats the same meal – perhaps with less strong flavours and salt.
Well, isn’t that what we all want – to cook one meal for our family? I’m sure I’m not alone though in achieving this very rarely.
What else do Japanese kids love?
So what else did Hisako say? I asked her what food Japanese kids love. What’s their equivalent to fish fingers, chips and ice cream? Her answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, was rice.
Hisako’s favourite foods as a child were Japanese curry, ramen noodles, soba noodles and nattou with rice (fermented soya beans). Her toddler loves most of these things too – and miso soup – but hasn’t come around to the fermented soya beans yet. I’m sure he will in time.
And of course bento lunch boxes
She went on to tell me about the amazing lunch boxes that Japanese kids have. Most Japanese mums try their hardest to get a balanced meal into a portable bento box. This might include something like rice balls, egg rolls, fish/meat items and green veg.
I honestly don’t know what R would do if I sent him to school with a lunch box like that! Maybe I should try it…
Bento boxes* are like lunchboxes but with little compartments, making them easy to fill with different foods. For inspiration, and lots of non-Japanese ideas for filling a bento box check out Eats Amazing.
Do you need any special equipment to make miso udon soup?
You don’t need anything unusual to make this vegan udon noodle soup. You should have most of the following in your kitchen anyway:
How to make miso udon noodle soup your own
I picked the vegetables based on what my kids like. Carrots and green beans are usually considered acceptable. Also R really likes tofu (another surprise from Mr Picky), which is why I’ve included it here.
I’ve also added pak choi because it goes so perfectly and this was a good opportunity to introduce my kids to something new.
You can adapt this udon soup recipe and use whatever veg you and your family prefer. Mange tout, baby corn, peppers for example are all delicious.
Pin miso udon noodle soup for later
How to make vegan miso udon soup
I would recommend that you chop all the vegetables and get your stock ready before starting to cook the soup.
If you want to use dried udon noodles cook them in a separate pan ( this helps remove the starch) before adding to the soup.
Miso udon noodle soup
For the tofu
- 400 g tofu
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
For the miso soup
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 onion sliced
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- thumb-sized piece ginger peeled and chopped
- 1 red chilli deseeded and chopped, optional
- 2 tsp miso paste
- 1.5 litre vegetable stock
- 2 carrots thinly sliced
- handful green beans topped and tailed and chopped in half
- 1 pak choi vegetables
- 300 g pre-cooked udon noodles
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 spring onions chopped
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
For the tofu
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan)/220°C/gas mark 7. Drain the tofu and squeeze out as much water as possible, soaking it up with kitchen towel. You can use a tofu press for this or press it down with a heavy plate. Slice into 2 inch pieces.
Place in a roasting dish and cover with 2 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp soy sauce. Stir well. Ideally leave this to marinate for at least 30 minutes but if you don't have time then stick it straight in the oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway until crispy on the outside.
For the soup
Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a large saucepan with a lid.
Add 1 sliced onion and sauté until soft.
Add 2 cloves chopped garlic, a chopped thumb-sized piece ginger and 1 chopped red chilli (if using). Stir and sauté for 1 minute.
Add 2 tsp miso paste and a dash of stock and stir until the paste has broken down.
Add the rest of the vegetable stock and bring to the boil before adding the carrots and green beans. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the pak choi leaves and cooked udon noodles and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper
Serve with the roasted tofu, chopped spring onions and black sesame seeds.
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