Ryan Thomas is a university graduate who enjoys cooking recipes from a wide variety of culinary traditions.
I have grown to quite appreciate the Japanese concept of unami—the fifth flavor group alongside salty, sour, bitter, and sweet. Umami is one of those things that makes intuitive sense when you learn about it, but which you had perhaps never really thought of before. It explains why some foods are almost seductive when you eat them, almost orgasmic with their savoriness.
The unami flavor—powerful, unexplainable, mysterious, and delicious—is associated with a variety of foods including meats, tomatoes, seafood, cheeses, and soy.
In the following recipe for chicken noodle soup, soy and dashi help to elevate the dish above the conventional recipe you may have grown up with.
I initially made this recipe when I was trying to think of something to make for my aunt's upcoming visit. My aunt has become more flexible over time, since she used to be terribly rigid with what sort of food she would eat, but she still doesn't tend to favor the typically rich, meaty dishes I often make. Chicken soup is the type of fare she generally prefers, but I decided to add soy and dashi for an extra umami boost.
So the path was set to make Japanese-style chicken soup, and what a success it was! The broth was rich and seductive, the chicken and noodles were soothing, and the vegetables provided green and refreshing notes. And it's all so quick and easy to prepare—just around 30 minutes or so—making it perfect for a delicious and satisfying weeknight meal.
This recipe is entirely my own.
- 12 ounces soba noodles
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup soy suace
- 2 ounces dashi bouillon cubes
- 1 bok choi, chopped
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 cup sake
- Fill a very large stockpot with around 5 quarts of water. Add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil.
- In a separate bowl, combine the dashi bouillon, soy sauce, red pepper, ginger, garlic salt, and sake. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over it and mix thoroughly so that they all dissolve together.
- Add the chicken into the boiling stockpot water, followed by the onions, then the carrots, then the noodles, and then by the various flavorings which had been mixed with the dissolved water. After 2-3 over high heat, add the bok choi and reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cook for at least 10-15 minutes longer or up to 30 minutes to provide for tenderness, then serve hot with green onions as garnish.