Curry Udon and Cooking with Kids

curry udon

As I near the halfway point with pregnancy #2, I’ve been trying to imagine how I’ll do certain things with two little ones in tow. No joke — at each store I’ll try to figure out where I’d park and if I’d put one kid in the cart and carry one, or stick the carseat in the cart, or if Marcus would maybe be responsible enough to walk quietly beside me (one can dream!). Sometimes I feel a little panicky, but then I remember my mom had five kids under 9 at one point. We may not have gone out much but we weren’t hermits. Just like toting one kid around was an adjustment, two will be too — but with God’s grace we’ll get there.

One of the concerns I had when I was pregnant the first time around was if I’d have time to cook and bake. I’ve always enjoyed preparing dinner and considered it a relaxing part of the day. To be honest, it’s taken me longer to “figure out” how to cook with a kid than it has to bake with one (because I usually just wait until my husband is home before I attempt any involved baking). And by “figure out” I mean that I haven’t really. As soon as I think I’ve got a schedule down, something changes — first it was Marcus not napping at that time, then it was him starting to climb on things whenever I was in the other room. You get the idea. If I’ve learned anything in the past 18ish months it’s that parenthood requires constant adjustment. No matter how many kids we end up having I’ll never have it “figured out,” and that’s ok. As my mom told me early on, when I was voicing my frustrations about not having enough hands: “Oh, you know, sometimes the house just won’t be clean. You do the best you can.”

Hopefully I haven’t painted this bleak picture where it sounds impossible to get things done with a kid! It’s just different, and I’m still learning. Some of the adjustments I’ve made since having a kid:

  • Divide meal prep into 15 minute increments. Chop vegetables during naptime; prepare marinades/sauces while the kid is eating; etc.
  • I don’t freeze a lot of cooked meals, but if I cook a batch of beans I’ll make a triple portion and freeze extras for quick additions to soups and stews.
  • Make batches of hard boiled eggs and granola at the start of the week for quick meals.
  • Always have frozen dumplings on hand.
  • Have a recipe base of quick meals that you can easily customize with whatever ingredients you have on hand. (Notice how many times the word “quick” has shown up? Lol.)

Curry is one of those quick meals that shows up in some variation on our dinner table every couple of weeks or so. We live right next to a little Japanese grocery store, so we always have a box of Japanese curry roux in the pantry. Most of the time we eat it over rice, but the other week I decided to switch it up and make it with udon noodles (another constant pantry item). It. Was. So. Good! The preparation was slightly different, but about as quick as how I make curry over rice. For the udon version I use less curry roux but dashi stock instead of water — this makes for a slightly thinner but still flavorful sauce that easily coats the noodles.

Curry Udon

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dashi stock (homemade, or using dashi powder)
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • About 1/2 in. ginger, peeled, sliced, and minced
  • 1-2 c sliced vegetables of choice (my favorites are carrot, celery, and mushroom)
  • 3/4 lb your choice of meat/seafood, sliced if needed (I usually use chicken or a package of fish/beef balls)
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 pieces/blocks of Japanese curry roux
  • 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
  • Salt, sugar, and white pepper to taste
  • 1 green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 3 packages udon noodles (about 600 grams)

Method

  1. Prepare your dashi stock.
  2. In a large frying pan or saucepan, heat oil on medium high. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining vegetables, season lightly with salt and sugar, and saute another 3-4 minutes. If you’re using an uncooked protein, add it at this point and increase the heat to high. Saute until the meat/seafood is almost cooked through.
  3. Add the dashi and mirin and bring to a boil. (If I’m using beef/fish balls, I add them once the stock has come to a boil.) Skim off any fat or scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the curry roux. Once the curry has dissolved, put the pan back on medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened to your liking. Stir occasionally to make sure the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  5. Taste and add soy sauce, salt, and white pepper if desired.
  6. Prepare your udon noodles according to the package instructions. Serve curry sauce over the udon noodles and garnish with green onion, if desired.

Pumpkin and Corn Seafood Congee

congeeinsteamer

Congee, or rice porridge, is my cultural version of chicken noodle soup. It’s a light, soothing meal that is perfect for chilly evenings and those days when you’re feeling under the weather. I’d guess that every Chinese family has their own version of congee. At the root congee is extremely simple: just rice simmered with a lot of liquid until it gets creamy. But you can jazz it up any way you like — by changing the stock base (we favor homemade chicken stock), adding in some whole grains, or popping in some seasonal produce as this version does.

I first had pumpkin congee when I moved back to Toronto a few years ago. As much as I love my hometown of Seattle, I have to give Toronto the edge in the Chinese food department. There’s just a lot more of it here, and the quality and variety is extremely high. I’ve seen this at a few dim sum restaurants in the area, and I order it whenever it’s available. This is our best attempt to recreate it at home.

congeealone

A few notes:

  • At least four hours before you make this, wash, rinse, and drain your rice; put it in a ziplock; and stick it in the freezer. This helps break down the rice faster and your congee will cook in less time. You can definitely make this with non-frozen rice; you will just need to increase the simmering time by at least 45 minutes or so. You can also use brown, red, or black rice — just note that the simmering time will be a bit longer.
  • You can certainly roast and puree your own pumpkin; I had a partial can hanging out in the fridge so I used that. You can also add in chunks of pumpkin during the rice simmering stage if you prefer more texture.
  • People vary wildly on how thick / thin they prefer their congee. I usually start out with about 8 cups of liquid and adjust towards the end of cooking time by adding more stock / water if needed. If it’s too liquidy, just keep cooking it until it reaches your desired consistency.
  • If you don’t like seafood, feel free to sub in chicken or leave it out completely.

Pumpkin and Corn Seafood Congee

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed and frozen for at least four hours (see note above)
  • 7-10 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade, or water
  • 4 slices fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp dried scallops (optional)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 lb firm white fish, cut into 1 inch chunks, seasoned with salt and white pepper
  • 1/4 lb bay scallops

To serve:

  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • Finely chopped green onion
  • Fresh ginger, cut in thin matchsticks
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili oil

Method

  1. In a large pot with a lid, add your stock/water, pumpkin puree, and ginger slices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. When the liquid is boiling, add your rice straight from the freezer. Keep at a boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Then turn down to low, add the dried scallops if using, and cover.
  3. Simmer, stirring occasionally (make sure to stir from the bottom to keep the rice from sticking), for about 15 minutes or until the rice has broken down and a creamy consistency is achieved. Add liquid a 1/4 cup at a time if you prefer a thinner consistency.
  4. Add the fish, scallops, and corn, and cook just until seafood is opaque (2-3 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Serve topped with desired accoutrements. Enjoy!

Creamed Corn Chicken

creamstylechickenThis is one of those simple, homey dishes that is a snap to put together when you don’t have much time to cook / feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. While the taste is best if you can marinate the chicken ahead of time, you’ll still get good results if you do it even just 1/2 an hour before cooking. Serve with plenty of rice and some variety of Asian veggies, and you’ve got yourself a Hong Kong cafe-style meal.

Creamed Corn Chicken

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sugar, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 t sugar
  • 1 1/2 t shaoxing wine
  • Dash of white pepper
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • 1 t cornstarch

Method

  1. At least an hour before cooking (or overnight), combine chicken pieces with marinade ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Heat oil in medium sized pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring frequently, and season with salt, sugar, and white pepper.
  3. When ginger and garlic become aromatic (~2-3 minutes), add chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all sides are browned and chicken is nearly cooked through (~4-5 minutes).
  4. Add cream style corn and soy sauce. Lower heat to medium low, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. While stirring constantly in one direction, add beaten egg. Adjust seasonings to taste. Remove ginger slices. Serve over rice.