Superfresh Meal in a Bowl: Udon Soup

I've been working on this recipe for weeks. The addition of miso seems to be an excellent finishing flavorful touch, but I'll probably keep experimenting, too.

1 package udon noodles (I like the brown rice kind)
1 box of broth (or mix up water with bouillon)
1 onion, sliced into strips
seaweed (for example, wakame and kelp)
dried mushrooms (for example, tree ears and shiitake)
vegetables, sliced or chopped (use many kinds! bok choy, sliced cabbage, daikon, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, celery, kale, asparagus, green pepper, etc.)
ginger (either fresh chopped or powdered)
olive oil or canola oil
sesame oil
sesame seeds
optional: spicy black bean paste, sliced scallions, chopped parsley, cubed tofu, sliced cooked meat

1. Place the seaweed and dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for about 10 minutes while you move on to #2.
2. Prepare vegetables and set aside. If you are quite orderly, you could keep the onions and ginger separate, as they will be used first.
3. Put a large pot of water on to boil (for the pasta).
4. Cut up the mushrooms and seaweed and set aside. Save the water if it doesn’t look too sandy or dirty.
5. When the water is boiling, put the udon in. Check the package to see how long to cook it, usually about 7-10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, heat olive or canola oil in a large skillet or pot and start sautéing the onions and ginger. When they have started to get a bit browned, throw in some or all of the vegetables and stir-fry these a bit too. Before they start to lose crunch, add the broth, seaweed water and any remaining vegetables and bring everything to a simmer. (The amount of broth to use depends how watery you like your soup—I generally just add enough broth to cover the vegetables, and then throw in more later if needed.)
7. Meanwhile, when the pasta is done, drain it in a colander. I like to stir in some oil so it can sit for a bit without sticking while I finish the rest of the soup.
8. When the soup is boiling, throw in some tamari as well as the chopped seaweed and mushrooms. I also like to add a small spoonful of spicy black bean paste which makes everything slightly and mysteriously piquant. If you’re using tofu or other protein, add that now too.
9. Finally, mix in the cooked udon. Stir soup together until heated through.
10. To serve, put a spoonful of miso in a bowl and mash it together with a few tablespoons of the liquid soup. When thoroughly combined, fill the bowl with soup and garnish with sesame oil and sesame seeds. A sprinkling of scallions or parsley is a nice finishing touch. Serve! (I find I need both a spoon and a fork to eat this. It’s really filling.)

Note: If possible, try to do steps 6-10 very quickly so that the vegetables stay fresh and a bit al dente. One shortcut might be to heat the broth separately so that once you add it, the noodles can go in right away and you’re pretty much ready to eat.

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