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Chicken Soup for the Office Worker’s Soul

I’m afraid I won’t be having my favorite lunch, chicken udon from Yagura on 41st St., for much longer. I sense a new job on the horizon (just a feeling—I don’t want to jinx anything) which will put me in a different part of midtown (really, I could do without midtown altogether). I suppose a new job is better than Japanese chicken noodle soup, but I’ll still miss my $4.88 plastic tub full from around the corner.

I don’t fully understand the whole umami concept, but I think this soup is rife with it. There’s an extra taste in there and it’s not simply salt. Supposedly, the konbu and bonito flakes which create dashi, the broth that is the basis for many Japanese soups, are an umami powerhouse when combined.

The noodles are fat and chewy and just filling enough. I’ve tried it with soba before, and while adequate, the overall effect was mealy and nibbly rather than teeth chompingly satisfying.

I would almost say the soup is healthy if it weren’t for the chicken. They include a handful of thick hacked up skin-on slices that I’m sure ooze fat all through the liquid. And the skin is browned and still crisp in parts, which implies that it hasn’t been stewed to death. That might be the clincher, the poultry is a separate entity and not a stock component either. Most chicken soups seem over cooked and dreary by comparison. I’ve never had any last long enough to refrigerate for later, but I’ve been curious if a white lardy layer would form atop the surface. There are some things you just don’t need to know.

Sometimes they forget to sprinkle the scallion slices on top, and you wouldn’t think it’d matter but it does. You need that tiny crisp onion contrast. I also keep a little bottle of Japanese chili powder in my drawer to spruce up the already flavorful soup. Three good shakes usually does the trick.


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