Chicken – I had delicious Udon soup at a Japanese restaurant, and the attempts to recreate have failed. what am I missing


I recently fell in love with Udon soup. I've had it at 2 different restaurants in Austin TX, and I find the broth clean and delicious. My favorite includes cucumber, carrot, a few shrimp, green onion, a and lil of tempura bits. Usually I love spicy soups, but the broth tastes so well balanced that i wouldn't really dare adding any chili, etc. I have tried to recreate it at home but the broth is not remotely similar.

I've tried making dashi broth a couple times. The second time was after a lot of internet research. I added about 4 2"x4" strips of Kombu to bout 5 cups water cold water, and brought it to near-boil over 30 minutes. I tasted and really noticed the umami flavor. But still, it tasted quite watery. I added 2 handfuls of bonito flakes (they reached boil for maybe a second) and removed from heat. Steeped 10 minutes. I could taste more fishyness now. I slowly started adding salt and it really started bringing out the fishyness, too much. I added soy a little at a time.. maybe a tablespoon all told and it was quite 'soy' tasting. not really the golden-rays-of-sunshine broth i had at the restaurant. I added a bit of mirin, maybe a tablespoon. At this point the stock tastes discordant: too fishy, too soy-like, and too salty, too sweet, and too watery.

Am I messing something up, or are these restaurants using some kind of chicken stock? I feel like I'm not in the ballpark. fwiw, I'm using light soy and sushi-chef mirin.

Any guidance/suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

I wrote the restaurant asking what was in the broth, and if they used dashi. Here is there response: "Our soup broth is made with chicken bone, beef marrow, and assortment of vegetables that is simmered for several hours"

Best Answer

For ramen, udon, and soba, it is not uncommon for Japanese restaurants to use multiple broths for layered flavors.

My friend is from Yamagata in Japan and several of her favorite Udon places will make a sturdy broth with dashi as well as pork and chicken stocks. When I make noodles at home, I almost always start with dashi and fortify with chicken or pork stock. While the aroma of a good dashi is strong, often times it isn't solid enough to feel full-bodied. Try adding other stocks/broths and see where that gets you. Use neckbones and feet if you make your own pork stock.