Japanese Udon Noodle Soup

Kon’nichiwa! Take your students on a cultural excursion through Japan by preparing a traditionally-inspired Japanese Udon Noodle Soup. Students will prepare this global recipe with local ingredients, including leafy greens from their own garden beds.

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Japanese Udon Noodle Soup

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Kon’nichiwa! Take your students on a cultural excursion through Japan by preparing a traditionally-inspired Japanese Udon Noodle Soup. Students will prepare this global recipe with local ingredients, including leafy greens from their own garden beds.

Theme

Japanese Culture/Geography

Subjects

Social Studies/Science

Learning Environment

Teaching Kitchen, Garden

Prep Time

45 min

Grade

K-8th grade

Lesson Time

60 min, two 40-min lesson

Common Core

Land biomes/land forms

Role of Teacher

Classroom Management, Curricular Tie

Season

Spring

Materials

Ingredients: Flour / Water / Salt / Egg yolk / Kombu / Dried mushrooms / Soy sauce / Condiments of choice / Garlic / Ginger / Seasonal leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard, baby kale, etc.) / Cilantro / Tofu or sliced hard boiled egg

Equipment: Cutting board / Knives / Measuring spoons/cups / Large mixing bowl / Mixing spoon / Gallon zip lock bag (1 per student group) / Dish towels (2 per student group) / Rolling pin / 1 large pot / Stove top / Bowls (1 per student) / Spoons (for each student)

Background Information

  • Seaweed is a staple in the Japanese diet.
  • Japan is an archipelago that consists of 6,852 islands, of which 430 are inhabited. Honshu is the largest island, home to Tokyo, and referred to as the Japanese mainland.
  • 4/5th of the land in Japan in mountainous or forested.
  • Japan has a temperate deciduous forest biome, the same biome as much of the Northeastern states in the USA. Because of this, many similar crops can grow.
  • Unlike the northeast, the shoreline of Japan has many seaweed forests. These forests are declining due to environmental degradation. Older students can compare and contrast marine ecosystems: https://ir.kochi-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/10126/3157/1/015OkudaK.pdf
  • Japan has a population of 127 million (2015) and is the 10th most populated country in the world.

Topics / Goals / Learning Objectives

  • Learn what crops are growing locally (in spring)
  • Learn about the culture and geography of Japan
  • Make connections to things similar and different from the culture and geography of Japan
  • Make a traditional Japanese dish using seasonal vegetables and herbs
  • Reinforce concepts of seasonality

Opening / hook

Kon’nichiwa, welcome to the teaching kitchen! Today, we will be harvesting spring crops and making a delicious dish from Japan, Udon Noodle Soup. We will make the noodles ourselves the way they are traditionally prepared in Japan: using our feet! We will make the recipe in parts: first we will make the noodles, then we will prepare the Kombu broth and add freshly harvested greens and herbs from the garden, and at end we will enjoy eating the dish together.

The cool weather crops we planted are ready to be harvested and prepared. What are some things growing in the garden? We will use many of the crops you mentioned for the recipe we are making because though Japan is on the other side of the world, the climate is similar and we grow many of the same crops. (Show a world map and locate Japan) Japan shares the same biome as us. Who knows the name of that biome? (Temperate deciduous forest) There are four seasons in a temperate deciduous forest biome. People around the world have different cultures with recipes that reflect that culture, but if share a similar climate, we most likely eat similar things. It is customary to add fresh, seasonal ingredients to Udon noodle soup, so though the noodle and broth are traditional, the flavors can change a lot depending on what is growing.

Procedures / Activities

Prep:

  • Prepare the noodle dough and Kombu broth ahead of time.
  • Allow dough to “rest” in the refrigerator. Cut the dough so there is one piece per group.
  • Set up stations for each group with dough, zip lock bag, and two towels.
  • Put cutting boards and knives aside.
  1. Welcome students outside the kitchen. Explain that we will be cooking as if they were in Japan.  Have them remove their shoes, and say Kon’nichiwa as they enter the kitchen. Instruct them to wash hands and take a seat
  2. Introduce the Recipe of the Month, making connections to curriculum and seasonality.
  3. Review how noodles are made. Teachers show an instructional video in class before the lesson. Students work in pairs or a small group and take turns mashing the dough with their feet. Their partner holds their hands to keep them steady while they mash and count for them. After 30 foot mashes, they switch. Students remove the dough, fold into a ball, return to bag and repeat the mashing.
  4. After all students have finished they join the teacher at a central counter top, bringing their dough mashed into a disk shape. Teacher demonstrates how to make noodles by rolling out dough, folding, and cutting into strips.
  5. Teacher demonstrates how Kombu broth is made and shows students what the Kombu seaweed looks like once it had soaked in the broth. Optional – discuss how seaweed is a plant that grows underwater on the ocean floor. Seaweed is a staple of the Japanese diet.
  6. Optional: Students tour garden and harvest herbs and vegetables.
  7. Students cut or rip greens and herbs into bite size pieces, removing the stem.
  8. When groups are finished and tables are clean, they make at line at a stove top and take turns adding a handful of prepped harvest and noodles.
  9. Set tables while soup is cooking. Serve and enjoy!

Reflections

End with a tasting and allow students time to vote on whether they simply “liked it, loved it, or tried it.”

Extensions / Adaptations / Games

  • The lesson can be done in the garden if there is a grill or portable cooktop.
  • Students can learn and practice expressions in Japanese.
  • Students can follow up with a sushi making lesson.
  • Students can bring recipe cards home and prepare dish with their families.

Lesson Resources

“How-to” Video for Udon noodles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgvW2czmEqs

Recipe: Udon Noodle Soup Recipe Card

Article for older students: Coastal Environment and Seaweed-bed Ecology in Japan (https://ir.kochi-u.ac.jp/dspace/bitstream/10126/3157/1/015OkudaK.pdf)