Previously I wrote an article about how to make Osaka Udon using Kasu that you can read HERE. In continuation, I will explain another Osaka Udon, called Kitsune Udon.
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What is Kitsune Udon?
Also referred to as Fox udon, this noodle dish is topped with fried tofu. It is given the name ‘fox udon’ because it is said that foxes love fried tofu and that the golden brown colour mimics that of a crouching fox. The fried tofu is soaked in hot water and then marinated in soy sauce, mirin and dashi. Finally it is usually topped with spice to complete a sweet and spicy flavour.
History of Kitsune Udon
Kitsune Udon is a typical dish found in Osaka, that was said to have originated in the Meiji Era (1868-1912). However dating back a little further to the Edo period, we can see the origins of the use of fried tofu. Shiteki Sanba, a famous writer, published a book called ‘Funeto Fukawa’, which depicts a character eating a noodle dish with fried tofu and green onions. However it was later discovered that the noodles used were actually soba (buckwheat) noodles and not udon. Furthermore, in another book called ‘Eight Views of the Body’ a character called ‘Shinoda’ started selling this fried tofu soba dish. The name Shinoda is said to have originated on Izumi City, Osaka.
Coincidentally, this area was known for the legend of the Kuzunoha fox.
Carrying on, Seimei Abe, a Japanese mythological character, specialised in magic and the divine arts. Abe was an onmyoji in the middle of the Heian period. He was not entirely human and it was said that his mother was the Kuzunoha fox (Kitsune). The Kuzunoha fox lived in ‘Shinoda no Mori’ and disappeared after being identified as Abe’s mother. Therefore, people believe that the real origins of Kitsuke udon was introduced in the Edo period.
The story mentioned above was based on mythology. However, another origin was said to be found during the Edo period. Fried tofu was used to make inari sushi. Fried tofu is cut to form a bag, in which, a mixture of rice and vegetables is stuffed into. This sushi was being eaten for a long time in areas such as Nagoya. The overlapping timelines of Inari sushi and Shinoda udon seem to have some correlation but we are not exactly sure of the exact origins.
What is Kitsune?
We have discussed that Kitsune refers to that of a fox. However the connection between the fox and fried tofu comes from the Inari faith. The Inari Worship was popular during the Middle Ages, which connects with the traditional belief of farmers who used foxes as gods of rice fields. During the Edo period foxes became a representative god of interest and was highlighted by the colour red. Inari shrines started to become popular in people’s homes. A festival called Hatsu-Uma, held on the first day of the horse in February, was held at Inari shrines. During this festival, people offered the fox god fried tofu as an offering.
There is another udon dish called ‘Tanuki’, which directly translates to ‘racoon dog’. In the Kansai region, Tanuki uses soba instead of Udon. However, in the Kanto region Tanuki udon actually refers to udon topped with tempura scraps. Within different regions of Japan, udon dishes have different names so be sure to check on the menu or with staff!
How to make Dashi
I explained briefly how to make kombucha dash in my previous how to make osaka udon. However, for this recipe, I will make katsuo kombu dashi. This use kombucha as well as bonito flakes (katsuoboshi) to give more umami and a slightly fishy taste. This will be used to make the inari age as well as the soup for the udon.
Prepare the dashi the same as kombucha dashi. After 1 hour of soaking the kombu, add 10g of Katsuoboshi into the dashi. Turn off the heat and let it soak for 15 minutes. Give it a gentle mix to make sure all the katsuoboshi is soaked in the water.
After 15 minutes, strain through kitchen paper and a colander.
How to make Fried Tofu
The topping for Kitsune udon is fried tofu that has been marinated in a dash based stock, called Inari Age. You can find pre made Inari Age, however it is quite rare to find outside of Japan. In this case, I’ll show you how to make your own!
- Fried Tofu (Aburaage) – This is deep fried tofu made from soybean. These are great to keep in your fridge as they go great with Miso soups and vegetarian dishes.
- Dashi – The most important stock in Japanese cuisine. 250ml
- Soy Sauce – A compulsory staple in Japanese cooking. It will add a salty and umami taste. 4tbsp
- Sugar – To balance the saltiness, you will need some sugar. 2tbsp
You will also need a drop lid, which you can either buy at your asian supermarket or make one yourself! These drop lids are important as they help evenly distribute heat throughout the pan. It prevents evaporation so the stock does not reduce and become too intense in flavour.
To make your own, you can get some aluminium foil and roughly shape it into a circle that is the size of your pan.
Firstly boil in hot water to remove some of the oiliness and door. Place the drop lid on top and boil for 2 minutes.
Drain and lightly rinse under cold water. Squeeze excess water out of the aburaage with your hand.
In a saucepan, add the dash, soy sauce and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the aburaage and then cover with the drop lid.
On a medium low heat, cook the aburaage till they absorb most of the liquid.
Remove and cool down. Once cooled, gently squeeze and remove some (not all!) of the liquid.
You can use this sauce to make some sushi rice or discard it. You can keep these Inari Age in the fridge for around 3 days. After making this, I will show you how to make osaka udon, Kitsune style!
Similiar to my previous ‘How to Make Osaka Udon’ article, the toppings are the same. Green onions, Seven spice powder, tempura scrap and grated radish are some great toppings for Kitsuke udon. However, there is one more topping that I like to eat with Kitsuke udon.
Kamaboko (Fish cake)
Kamaboko is a type of cured fish puree that has been formed into a fish cake. It is made from taking various white fish and turning them into puree. Some seasonings are then added and then steamed until firm and cooked through. I love this slightly fishy and chewy taste along with the udon broth!
How to make Kitsune Udon
Soy sauce 2tbsp
Toppings of your choice (I went for chilli flakes and kamaboko fish cake)
Next, boil your udon according to the instruction on the packet.
In the mean time, Add the soy sauce, mirin and dash into a saucepan and bring up to the boil.
Once the udon has boiled, drain and place in your bowl.
Next add the dashi broth.
Top with your inari age and any other toppings of your choice! Enjoy!
Where to enjoy Kitsune Udon in Osaka
This little restaurant has been running for over 70 years now. The word Dotonbori refers to the location of the restaurant within Osaka. Imai is the family name and during those times, they had to find something to eat and to live. The wife of the Inai family spent day after day trying to perfect their dashi until she found the perfect ratio. A secret ratio of natural kelp from Hokkaido, dried mackerel and herring from Kyushu makes up their golden dashi. It is incredibly light while still being a full bodied and umami packed broth. Furthermore, they always freshly prepare the dash and never stock up in advance.
They have a website in Japanese as well as English, offering various types of Udon. The food is simple but all the ingredients used are of the highest quality and is some of the best udon around!
Website: www. udon-imai.com
Address: 1-chome-7-22 Dotonbori Chuo-ku Osaka
Phone Number: +81-50-5570-5507
Marugame Udon – Chain Store
This is actually one of my favourite places to eat udon. At Marugame, you line up at the counter and first select which udon you would like to eat. They have a wide variety of udon you can enjoy and one of them is Kitsune. Furthermore, you can choose from small, medium and large portions. Lastly, you can pick up a selection of freshly fried tempura as a side. Some of my favourites are squid, sweet potato and egg tempura! Finally, you pay at the counter.
After you have paid, there is another small counter where you can put some toppings for free. There is grated ginger as well as some tempura scraps and spiced powder. I love this shop for a quick, cheap and delicious bowl of udon.
Address: 〒556-0011 Osaka, Naniwa Ward, Nanbanaka, 1 Chome−16−8 國樹ビル 1F
Phone Number: 06-6643-1368
Kitsune is a very simple dish, that packs a punch. The fluffy pillow of the inari age is sweet and salty, oozes umami once you bite into it. Along with the chewy udon and the light broth, it’s a great meal for anytime of the day.