Kitsune Udon is one of the ultimate Japanese comfort dishes. Thick udon noodles served in a delicious umami packed dashi broth, topped with a sweet and flavourful twice-fried tofu pouch we call "aburaage". This is a classic dish that you can enjoy down to the very last slurp!
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What is Kitsune Udon?
Kitsune udon is a noodle soup dish. Thick chewy udon noodles are served in a savory dashi broth and then topped with seasoned aburaage (fried tofu), kamaboko (fish cake) and spring onion. It's one of the most popular udon dishes in Japan and one of the ultimate comfort dishes.
Although it varies from region to region, the aburaage used here is first boiled in hot water to remove its oil and then seasoned with sugar, soy sauce, and mirin.
It is available not only hot, but also cold and in hot pots.
History of Kitsune Udon
The history of Kitsune Udon is actually unclear in spite of it's popularity. Some theories suggest that the dish was already formed during Edo period (1600-1868) but the others suggest it only emerged during Meiji period (1868-1912)
Nonetheless, the one who named this dish of udon and aburaage was believed to be Usami Yotaro (宇佐美 要太郎) from a restaurant called "Usamitei Matsubaya" (うさみ亭松葉屋) in Osaka during mid-Meiji era.
Indeed, kitsune (狐) means fox in Japanese. While the origin of the name is not certain, there are some interesting theories about where its' name came from.
- In Japanese folklore, a fox's favourite food is twice fried tofu (aburaage).
- The colour of aburaage is similar to a foxes' fur (we often say to cook food until "fox colour" - golden/brown/orange).
- The shape of aburaage looks like the shape of a fox crouching down.
They are all interesting! Which theory do you like?
Classic but still favourite
While this is an extremely simple dish, it is still all time favourite comfort food in Japan. It's not only served at udon restaurants, but "instant kitsune udon" is also available!
The most well known brands of instant kitsune udon are Maruchan's Akai Kitsune and Nissin Donbei Kitsune Udon (affiliate links). You can find either in pretty much any supermarket or convenience store in Japan.
本日は 神奈川県小田原市「小田原城址公園銅門広場」にて赤緑合戦食べ比べイベントを実施！— 赤いきつね緑のたぬき 【公式】 (@akamidori_TS) December 13, 2019
たくさんのご来場をお待ちしております！#赤緑合戦 #赤いきつね #緑のたぬき #あなたはどっち #神奈川県 #小田原市 #小田原城 #梅丸くん pic.twitter.com/pKPmR4Bb14
FYI, Maruchan's kitsune udon has red packaging while green is Midori no Tanuki Soba (another classic noodle dish.)
To make things unnecessarily confusing, Donbei's kitsune udon has green packaging while the red one is Tempura soba. Be careful not to mix them up! (You can buy an assortment of Donbei kitsune udon and tempura soba on Amazon.)
Tips for making the best Kitsune Aburaage
The most complex part of this recipe is how to flavour the aburaage (fried tofu) especially for kitsune udon. To make it easier, here are some tips!
Drain off the oil by boiling it in hot water
Aburaage is a kind of tofu that is deep fried twice. When you buy it (or make it from scratch) it is quite oily, so it is recommended to drain the oil off by boiling it in hot water before flavouring it. It not only makes the sauce stick better to aburaage, but also the aburaage becomes extra soft.
3 minutes is enough time to remove the oil, but after that, make sure to wash it under cold running water then squeeze it dry too!
Add salt to the hot water for extra cleaning
When you clean the aburaage in the hot water, adding approximately 1 tsp of salt can help extra oil drain off.
You might wonder if it makes the kitsune aburaage too salty, but we will wash them in cold water at the end and this removes the salt. This method doesn't make it salty, don't worry!
Use a "Otoshibuta" Drop Lid
In this recipe, I use an "otoshibuta" (落し蓋) or Japanese drop lid. This is a tool we use to help distribute the heat evenly around the food and to stop large bubbles from forming and prevent delicate ingredients from breaking.
You can buy drop lids made from made from wood, stainless steal and silicone on Amazon (affiliate links) but to be honest, if you don't use a drop lid that often you can make it from baking paper or foil. You can learn more about otoshibuta and how to make it on my "How to make Otoshibuta" post (includes pictures/video).
Rest it in the fridge
It's not essential, but resting the kitsune aburaage in the fridge after it's been cooked in the sauce will greatly improve the flavour! If you have enough time, I definitely recommend putting them in fridge for a few hours or even overnight.
Kitsune Udon Broth
Kitsune udon is always served in a light dashi broth. There's a number of ways to make dashi, but for the best flavour, I strongly recommend making your own dashi from scratch. It doesn't take long and it helps you create restaurant quality kitsune udon.
If you want to save time, you can alternatively use "dashi bags" or "mentsuyu sauce" to make your udon soup. These are shortcut methods and you can purchase them on amazon. To learn more about how to use these to make udon soup, check out my Kake Udon Recipe for more information.
Why is it called "Kitsune Udon"?
There are a number of theories but the most popular ones are:
• Aburaage (deep fried tofu) is a foxes favourite food in Japanese folklore
• Aburaage is the color of a fox
• Aburaage is a similar shape to a fox
Is Kitsune Udon made out of fox?
Kitsune udon is topped with deep fried tofu, no foxes are harmed in the making of kitsune udon!
What is udon broth made of?
Udon broth is made from Japanese dashi stock, soy sauce and mirin.
What does Kitsune Udon taste like?
I'd say that kitsune udon is tastier than other udon dishes because the broth is flavoured by the seasoned tofu. It's a bit sweet too.
Is Kitsune udon suitable for vegetarians / vegans?
Because the dashi broth contains katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and niboshi (dried sardines), it's not suitable for vegetarians. It usually has kamaboko or narutomaki as well, both are types of Japanese fishcake. If you omit the fishcake and make a vegetarian/vegan dashi then you can easily make kitsune udon into a meat and fish-free dish.
Can you eat Kitsune Udon cold?
Yes, some people eat it cold. Especially in summer.
Kitsune Udon (きつねうどん)
How to make classic Kitsune Udon. (きつねうどん) Thick, chewy udon noodles served in a light dashi broth and topped with deliciously seasoned aburaage (twice fried tofu). Makes 4-5 portions.
- 4-5 pieces of Aburaage
- Water for boiling
- 1 tsp Salt
- 100ml Water
- 2 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp Sake
- 2 tbsp Mirin
- 2 tbsp Tsuyu sauce
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce
- 10g Kombu (dried kelp)
- 15g Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
- 10g Niboshi (dried sardines)
- 1l Water
- 5 tbsp (75ml) Soy sauce
- 2 tbsp Mirin
- ½ tsp Salt
- 4-5 portions Udon noodles
- Spring onion finely chopped
- 12-15 Slices of Kamaboko (or narutomaki - Japanese fishcakes)
MAKING the KITSUNE ABURAAGE
- Fill a pot with plenty of water and bring it to a boil. (It should be enough to completely cover the aburaage.)
- Add 1 tsp of salt and the aburaage to the pot. Place a drop lid on top and boil for 3 minutes.
- Remove the aburaage from the pot and wash them under cold running water.
- Squeeze out the excess liquid.
- Take another pan and add 100ml water, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp sake, 2 tbsp mirin and mix. Heat on medium.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, add 2 tbsp tsuyu and 1 tbsp soy sauce.
- Bring the liquid to almost boiling, then turn the heat down to a low setting.
- Add the aburaage to the pan and place the drop lid on the top.
- Cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by one third (whichever is faster).
- Place the aburaage into a container and leave them to cool.
- Once cooled, place in the fridge for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
MAKING AWASE DASHI
- Remove and discard the heads of the niboshi.
- Pour 1 litre of cold water into a pot and add the niboshi and kombu. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add the katsuobushi and heat on low to medium-low setting.
- Allow to the dashi to heat up until small bubbles start to appear and turn off the heat. Do not let it boil.
- Take a large heatproof bowl and place a sieve lined with kitchen paper inside. Pour the dashi through the sieve, allowing the clear broth to pass through into the bowl.
UDON AND BROTH
- Boil the udon according to the instructions on the packaging.
- Pour the broth back into the pan and add 5 tbsp of soy sauce, 2 tsp mirin and turn the heat on high.
- Bring to a boil and let it bubble for 1-2 minutes to burn the alcohol away from the mirin.
- Turn off the heat and add ½ tsp salt. Mix well.
- Drain the water from the udon noodles and clean them under cold water to stop the cooking process and remove the starch.
- Pour boiling water over the udon noodles to warm them again and divide into 4-5 bowls.
- Divide the broth evenly into each bowl and top with chopped spring onion, kamaboko and the kitsune aburaage.
The nutritional value is based on when you drink up the soup (we DO NOT drink up the soup when it comes to udon)
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