Cheese in…Asian cuisine?

Spicy miso cheese udonI’m all about weird, unsuspecting food pairings. The more bizarre the combination, the better. In this case, it would be a spicy miso cheese udon.

The first time I ever seen cheese in Asian cuisine, I thought it was weird. I mean, how common is it to find cheese in a stir fry or a bowl of laksa? Something just doesn’t fit right. But you would be surprised.

My first encounter was the cheese ramen at Kintaro years ago. “Popular amongst the ladies”, it boasted. Curious, I had veered away from my usual spicy garlic ramen and had ordered the cheese ramen. I wish I had a picture of it now but the bowl was piled high with cheese. How bizarre! I was really wondering how well it would taste together. Honestly, it was an interesting combination. It was fine for the first few bites but I could not finish it. I enjoyed it but it was something I probably wouldn’t order again.

It was actually when I was in South Korea last year that I really noticed that cheese, especially American cheese, was making a more frequent appearance on menus. I had observed that cheese was present in spicy dishes like chicken galbi, ramyun, and budae jjigae — perhaps it was there to mellow out the spice? Whatever the reason was, I understood that it was SUCH a great combination. Spicy and cheesy….pretty much a dream come true. I never forgot about that.

Although I do not believe in American cheese aka processed cheese, I did make my own version of this. I made a simple, hearty and spicy miso udon noodle soup for dinner (which so many of you asked for the recipe — here it is + the cheese!!!) with real mild cheddar grated on top. I think mild cheddar was definitely a good choice in this recipe as opposed to old/sharp cheddar since I think it would’ve overpowered the dish. This was perfectly cheesy with a good amount of spice — the most comforting bowl of soup I’ve had in ages, especially on these grey, rainy days!

I know it sounds bizarre but don’t knock it til you try it! You may be a convert after this.
Spicy miso cheese udon Spicy miso cheese udon Spicy miso cheese udon Spicy miso cheese udonSpicy miso cheese udon

What you’ll need:
– 3.5 cups cups homemade stock or water
– 2 tsps dashi granules
– 1 tbsp doenjang (Korean miso)
– 1 tbbp gochujang
– 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
– 1 tsp gochugaru
– 1 pkg udon noodles
– Handful of spinach
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup mild cheddar, grated

What you’ll need to do:
1. In a small pot, heat the stock or water with the dashi granules over medium-high heat. Dissolve the doenjang and gochujang together and add the toasted sesame seeds and gochugaru.
2. When the liquid begins to bubble, drop the heat down to medium-low and add the udon noodles and spinach. Crack the egg into the middle of the pot and cover for 3 minutes or until the egg is cooked to your liking. Do not overcook the noodles. When the egg is cooked, add the cheddar on top and serve. Makes 1 serving.

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