As vegans we don’t get a whole lot of umami in our lives. What’s umami? It’s one of the five basic tastes. Surely you’re familiar with the sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes. Well, Umami is a kind of savory flavor that was first scientifically identified in 1908. Meat and cheese are good sources of umami, as well as shiitake mushrooms, and I often find myself craving this savory type of flavor. Nutritional yeast is a source of umami, which is probably why I consume questionably monstrous large quantities of the stuff. If you want to read more about umami, you can do that here and here. Also, check out this interesting little article on umami by NPR, here, while you’re at it! 

Tempeh, shiitake mushrooms, and miso combine their delicious powers for one hearty and savory udon noodle dish that’s sure to cure that umami craving when it hits! 

Umami Udon Noodles  

Serves 4

  • 8 oz. packaged udon noodles
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. tempeh, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 oz. dried (or 8 oz. fresh) shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced & soaking water reserved
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger paste (or minced ginger)
  • 1 tsp. lemon grass paste (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups shiitake mushroom soaking water or vegetable broth
  • 3-4 Tbsp. miso (I like red)
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

Notes: If you have an aversion to tempeh, feel free to use firm tofu, or neither!

Start by soaking the dried shiitake mushrooms in 2 cups of very hot water. I like to put a big spoon over the mushrooms to help keep the, submerged. Allow to soak for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain when ready to use but keep the soaking water for later on in the recipe. If you’re using fresh mushrooms you won’t need to soak them and you can just use vegetable broth or water to replace the soaking water.

In a small saucepan, cook udon noodles according to package instructions. This usually includes boiling the noodles for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. We will not use the sauce packet, it’s not vegan.

In a large frying pan, heat the sesame oil. Add the onion, tempeh, and garlic. Saute for about 10-15 minutes, or until the onions have started to brown and caramelize. 

Now, add the sliced shiitake mushrooms, ginger, and lemongrass. Saute for an additional 3-5 minutes. 

Add in the soy sauce, vinegars, water/broth, and the miso. Stir well to combine, dissolving the miso and deglazing the pan.

Add the udon noodles to the pan along with the spinach and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the noodles are heated and the spinach is wilted. You can even cover it with a lid to help the spinach wilt. 

Serve hot and garnished with some fresh cilantro and sesame seeds. 

Hello umami bomb.

Toe tappin’ to MGMT – Electric Feel

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