Green Tea Broth with Udon Noodles

MAKES: 4 first-course or 2 lunch servings

TIME: 15 minutes

In Japan, one often eats udon noodles with the liquid they were cooked in to enjoy both the flavor and the nutrition left behind by the noodles. Sometimes the starting point is water, sometimes stock or broth; often vegetables are cooked in the broth before the noodles are added, so it becomes even tastier.

And sometimes the starting “broth” is green tea. With its somewhat savory taste, the resulting soup is elegant in both simplicity and speed; and the list that follows shows the way to embellish and intensify the flavor.

1/4 cup green tea leaves

Salt

8 ounces udon noodles

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon mirin or sugar (optional)

01 Put 7 cups water in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let rest for a couple minutes. Stir in the tea leaves (or use a tea ball, cheesecloth, or some other mesh contraption), cover, and steep until fragrant and richly colored, 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the “tea broth” through a strainer and put the tea in a large saucepan. Discard the tea leaves.

02 Bring the tea broth to a boil and sprinkle with salt. Stir in the udon. When the broth returns to a boil, add 2 cups of cold water. When the liquid returns to a boil, turn the heat down so that it bubbles gently without overflowing. Cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles are just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and add more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the mirin or sugar, if you like, and serve.

17 Additions to Green Tea Broth with Udon

Some of these are garnishes to serve over the noodles; others are cooked in the broth to give it more character. And some can go either way:

  1. 1 cup finely chopped tomato, added to the broth as it simmers
  2. A pinch or two of cayenne or other ground chile, added to the broth as it simmers
  3. 1/2 cup cubed tofu, added to the broth when the noodles are nearly finished cooking
  4. 1 cup precooked small beans, like soybeans, adzuki, edamame, or mung, added to the broth when the noodles are nearly finished cooking
  5. 4 scrambled eggs, added to the broth when the noodles are nearly finished cooking
  6. 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger, added to the broth as it simmers
  7. 2 sheets nori, lightly toasted and cut into 1-inch strips (see Nori Chips), for garnish
  8. 1 tablespoon white or black sesame seeds, used as a garnish
  9. 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds for garnish
  10. 2 tablespoons nuts, like pistachios, cashews, or hazelnuts, toasted (see The Nut and Seed Lexicon) used as a garnish
  11. 1/4cup Nori “Shake” for garnish
  12. A dab of wasabi paste for garnish
  13. A thinly sliced onion, added to the broth as it simmers or as a garnish
  14. A handful of julienned cucumber, added to the broth as it simmers or as a garnish
  15. A cup or two of shredded lettuce or cabbage, added to the broth as it simmers or as a garnish
  16. 1 cup mung bean sprouts (see Sprouts to make your own), added to the broth as it simmers or used as a garnish
  17. 2 tablespoons candied ginger (omit the mirin or sugar), added to the broth as it simmers or as a garnish