A recipe for Chikara Udon (Japanese Power Udon, 力うどん). Thick, chewy udon noodles rest in a rich dashi broth with toasted Kirimochi (rice cakes), spinach, negi (green onion), and kamaboko (fish cake).
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Take care when eating mochi, especially with young children and those with swallowing difficulties. It is incredibly chewy and can pose a choking risk.
I am so happy to finally be in an area where Japanese ingredients are readily available. Not just the pantry staples such as dried noodles, sauces, and seasonings, but all the fresh produce and refrigerated products as well!
My local Mitsuwa Marketplace had a whole section set up for New Year items with these Kirimochi placed front and center. Kirimochi (切り餅) is a type of mochi (rice cake) made from pounded glutinous rice. It is molded into a rectangular or square shape and sold dried and individually wrapped. If you do not have them available locally, they can also be found on Amazon for a higher price: Kirimochi.
I was searching for new ways to use the Kirimochi and came across Chikara Udon. Translating to “Power” Udon, this soup stands out with the toasted Kirimochi resting right on top.
Since the Kirimochi are sold dried, they need to be cooked briefly before adding to the soup. I usually toast them under the broiler. Just definitely keep an eye on them. They go from golden and puffed to burnt very quickly (I may have overcooked a couple while trying to multitask). You can also grill them or soften in the microwave.
Have any leftover Kirimochi? They are delicious simply toasted and served with soy sauce. Making Moffles (Muoffuru) is also fun- cooking the mochi in a nonstick waffle iron.
A few notable ingredients
There are a few specific ingredients needed to make this soup, but the amazing flavor is completely worth it. The broth can even be prepared up to 5 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve.
I made a dashi broth as the base for the Chikara Udon. This particular version uses Kombu (dried Japanese kelp) and Katsuobushi (bonito flakes). I have been able to find these ingredients at Whole Foods and Asian food markets.
Udon are long, thick noodles with a smooth and chewy texture. I use the frozen noodles found in the freezer section of markets with Japanese items and some larger supermarkets like Wegmans. The frozen noodles cook quickly in boiling water. Drain the noodles and place them into individual serving bowl immediately when the are heated through. Do not rinse. You don’t want to overcook them, since they will be hanging out in a hot broth. You can also use dried Sanuki Udon, but I just personally prefer the frozen noodles.
Mirin is a sweet Japanese cooking rice wine. I use hon-mirin (true mirin) in recipes calling for mirin. I have been able to find it in Asian food markets and Whole Foods. Many grocery stores have aji-mirin, but be sure to check the ingredient list for additives. Other types of mirin are shio-mirin (includes salt) and shin-mirin (very little alcohol).
Usukuchi soy sauce is a light and pale mild Japanese soy sauce used to season soups. It is sometimes labelled as light soy sauce. Do not confuse it with “lite” soy sauce in supermarkets. Those are just lighter in sodium. Usukuchi soy sauce is actually higher in sodium than the more common soy sauce. It is available in markets with Japanese ingredients. If you cannot find Usukuchi, use regular soy sauce in a pinch; just add about half the amount and season with salt.
I used scallions to garnish the Chikara Udon, but try to use negi if you can find it. They look like a cross between a leek and scallion and are available in some Asian food markets.
Kamaboko (fish cake) is a type of cured surimi. Processed white fish is formed into a loaf shape and steamed until firm. It can be found in the refrigerated section of Asian markets featuring Japanese ingredients. If you are looking for different ways to use it, check out the beautiful designs made by Nami of Just One Cookbook.
Looking for more Japanese soups?
- Niku Udon (Japanese Meat Udon)
- Gyoza Nabe (Japanese Dumpling Hot Pot)
- Toshikoshi Soba (Japanese New Year Soba)
Chikara Udon (Japanese Power Udon) Recipe
Adapted from Japan Centre
Chikara Udon (Japanese Power Udon)
- 5 cups (1.2 liters) water
- 1 (6 inch, 15 cm) piece kombu
- 1.4 ounces (40 grams) katsuobushi dried, shaved bonito
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) usukuchi soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) mirin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 Kirimochi
- 2 bricks (8.8 ounces, 250 g each) frozen udon
- 5 ounces (140 grams) spinach blanched
- 1 negi (or green onion) thinly sliced
- 4 thin slices kamaboko optional
To make the Dashi base:
- In a large pot, combine the 5 cups water and kombu. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove the kombu pieces and add another 2 tablespoons cold water. Stir in the bonito flakes until just combined. Once boiling, reduce to low heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam that develops on the surface.
- Remove from heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a large bowl. DO NOT squeeze the excess liquid from the bonito before discarding.
- Return strained dashi (water cooked with kombu and bonito) to cleaned large pot over high heat. Stir in the usukuchi soy sauce, mirin, and salt. Once boiling, reduce heat to low until ready to serve.
To make the toppings:
- Place the kirimochi on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil about 2 inches apart. Place in the oven under a low broil until toasted and inflated.
- In another large pot, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add frozen udon and cook until just tender. Drain and divide the udon among 2 large soup bowls. Pour the hot broth over the noodles and top each bowl with the toasted Kirimochi, blanched spinach, thinly sliced negi, and kamaboko. Serve immediately.