Wow, You’ve Got Something There CHINATOWN! – Novel Udon from Harvest Community Foods

Vibrant Renewal,
Harvest deftly makes over
Boring plain udon.
Udon is the unglamorous Japanese wheat noodle banished to obscure parts of menus.  It doesn’t have shops dedicated to its yumminess like its hotshot cousin, ramen. 
Udon usually follows this unwavering formula at most Japanese restaurants: noodles (often mushy), in a dashi broth based broth (probably made from powder), adorned with bits of carrots, broccoli and meat.  The only exciting udon is Nabeyaki udon (but very few places prepare this hearty dish well) and Mentai Kinchi udon (which is stirred fried and not served in soup).
I’m not sure why no one has attempted an udon make over in Vancouver?  Vancouverites seem to love all types of Japanese food. 
Udon’s mild taste yet hearty texture should allow chefs some flexibility on how to prepare it.  I think you can go delicate and subtle or robust and bold in terms of the soup base and toppings.  Why should ramen have all the fun? 
Harvest Community Foods has taken up the task of serving Asian noodles, mainly Japanese, with a twist.  I have already experienced the pork ramen with candied bacon at Burdock & Co, which is also served at this small grocery/noodle shop found on Union street in Chinatown.

I wanted something different.  I went with the udon served with chicken, shiitake mushrooms and watercress. 
This dish was very aromatic and visually appealing.  I observed the sentiment in the soup following the molecular motion of the evaporating water, rising and falling when it could trail no more.  The cyclical movement was calming to watch, until it ceased as the soup cooled down.

The noodles were thinner than what you see at most eateries.  However they had a nice chewy texture.  The heat of the soup cooked the raw watercress perfectly.  The large pieces of white meat chicken were tender and savoury.  The cute as a button mushrooms were firm.
The one thing I initially found off putting was the soup.  Although it smelt great it was boldly sweet at start of the meal.  However much like the soup used during Chinese Hot Pot meals, what you start out with is not what you finish with. 
The other fragrant ingredients in the dish saved the soup.  Since the watercress was cooked in soup, it lent its bitter taste.  While soaking in the broth, the shiitake mushrooms added an earthiness. 

Combined with the udon absorbing some of the soup’s flavour, the soup’s sweetness became less pronounced.  This allowed me to detect other flavours such as a smokiness and umami.  By end of my meal, I was slurping every drop of the complex tasting soup that had slight watercress endowed bitterness. 
Much like the ramen with bacon, the udon served here is not traditional but it doesn’t mean both are not tasty.  I liked my bowl of chicken udon at Harvest.  I enjoyed how the chef dolled up a normally uninteresting noodle and made it vibrant and alluring.
OTHER POST IN THE CHINATOWN SERIES:
Harvest Community Foods on Urbanspoon

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