When the weather gets too hot, 1) your appetite goes down, 2) you don’t want to cook, 3) all you want to eat is something cold and cool down, like Green Tea Shaved Ice. Sure, I have skipped a meal and enjoy cold treats for lunch when I wasn’t a mom. But with my children around, I have to think of QUICK and EASY (and cold!) dishes for our lunch, and of course it should be delicious as well. Cold Tanuki Udon (冷やしたぬきうどん) is a perfect lunch on those hot days.
Tanuki Udon is a udon noodle soup usually served in a hot dashi broth and topped with tempura bits called tenkasu. However, during the summer months this dish is often prepared cold. It’s very refreshing and super easy to prepare.
For those unfamiliar with Tenkasu 天かす (or sometimes called Agedama 揚げ玉), it is simply little bits of crunchy fried tempura batter and sprinkled like mini-croutons. It can be added on top of noodle soup, or mixed in dishes like Okonomiyaki, Hiroshimayaki, and Takoyaki. Tenkasu adds both flavor and texture to the food. Pre-made tenkasu can be found in a package like this and purchased at Japanese supermarkets.
If you don’t think you could get tempura bits in nearby grocery stores, don’t worry. You could use the leftover tempura crumbs from when you make tempura, or simply skip it and enjoy tanuki udon with your favorite ingredients (but can’t call it Tanuki, as it refers to tenkasu).
Cold tanuki udon is meant to be simple, easy, and quick, and also cool you down from the hot weather.
Now if you are wondering about the name of this dish… Tanuki. Do you know what the word means in Japanese? Tanuki (たぬき, 狸) means a raccoon dog. No, I’m serious! What’s that to do with this dish and why was it named after a raccoon dog?
There are a couple of theories why this udon noodle dish is called tanuki, but it seems like no one really knows for sure. One strong theory is that the name tanuki comes from “tane nuki” (meaning “without fillings” just tenkasu).
Also, the each region in Japan has their own style of “Tanuki Udon” and they are a bit different from region to region. Let’s look at these three big cities: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. In Tokyo, “tanuki” refers to tenkasu, like I mentioned above. In Kyoto, however, “tanuki” refers to Kitsune Udon or Kitsune Soba with ankake (a dish where a thick gravy sauce is poured over ingredients). In Osaka, “tanuki” means Kitsune Soba (soba only), and udon with tenkasu is simply called Tenkasu Udon not Tanuki Udon. Next time you’re in Japan and sees Tanuki Udon on the menu, make sure to remember where you are or you could be in for a surprise.
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- ⅓ cup Metnsuyu (dilute 2-3 times based on preference) (For homemade Tsuyu click here for the recipe)
- 2 packages udon (I usually buy frozen “Sanuki Udon”)
- 2 tsp. wakame seaweed
- 1 scallion/green onion
- 1 Japanese or Persian cucumber
- 2 inch daikon radish (green top part of daikon tastes sweeter)
- ½ cup Tenkasu/Agedama (Tempura bits)
- 1 soft/hard-boiled egg
- 4 grape tomatoes
- ¼ tsp. roasted white sesame seeds
- If you are going to/need to make Mentsuyu from scratch, follow the recipe here.
- Put wakake seaweed in a small bowl and soak for 15 minutes. After soaking, queeze the water out and set aside.
- Thinly slice the scallion.
- Peel the cucumber (leave some skin) and thinly slice diagonally. Then cut into julienne strips. Set aside.
- Peel the daikon skin and grate. Squeeze the water out and set aside.
- Heat water in a pot and when it boils, add frozen udon and cook until it boils again. Remove udon from boiling water and cool in ice bath. Wait until it cools completely and drain.
- To make the sauce, add ⅓ cup of Mentsuyu. My Mentsuyu recipe should be diluted about 2-3 times depending on your preference. If you use store bought mentsuyu, read the directions to see if you can use it “straight” (no need to dilute) or if it should be diluted 2 times or 3 times. Add ice cubes to keep tsuyu cool.
- Serve udon on the plate/bowl and add toppings on top. Pour the Mentsuyu (sauce) over and enjoy!