Yaki-udon (Stir-fried Udon Noodles)
I just enjoyed a wokful of this recipe, and it was so good, it made me wonder why it isn't more popular than yakisoba, the dish on which it is based. They're essentially the same thing - stir-fried noodles with loads of veg in a sweet-salty sauce - but the fat, chewy, toothsome texture of the udon is, I think, far more satisfying than the egg noodles you get in yakisoba.
Though this dish does not turn up on lunch menus around Japan, it's considered a speciality of Kitakyushu, the city where I lived in Japan. I don't know why, though it might be because it's at a crossroads of mainstream Japanese food culture (featuring more trational noodles like udon) and Kyushu food culture (which has more Chinese-inflected noodle dishes, like ramen and yakisoba). Anyway, it's delicious, and something easily made in about half an hour.
- 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small or 1/2 large onion, sliced about 2mm thick
- 4 rashers streaky bacon, cut into small chunks, or 60g lardons (optional)
- 1 carrot, cut on the bias into thin planks
- 1 clove garlic, julienned
- 1/2 cabbage - use a pointy or flat cabbage if you can get them, cut into strips about 1cm wide
- 200g bean sprouts
- 80g mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp dashi powder or MSG
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2-3 portions cooked udon noodles
- 40g (approx) beni shoga (drained weight)
- white sesame seeds, to garnish
- crispy fried shallots/onions, to garnish (optional) - you can buy these in Chinese grocers or big supermarkets
Heat the oil until very hot in a wok or deep frying pan. Add the onion and bacon and stir-fry until just starting to brown, then add the carrot and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, cabbage and bean sprouts and stir-fry for another 3-4 minutes, until the cabbage has lost much of its volume. Add the mushrooms and stir, then add the sesame oil, dashi powder, pepper, soy sauce, mirin and vinegar. Stir, then add the udon and cook for another 2 minutes or so, until the noodles are warmed through and much of the liquid has been absorbed.
To serve, pile the stir-fry into shallow bowls and top each serving with a mound of pickled ginger (beni shoga), some sesame seeds and a handful of crispy shallots.
Instead of the soy-sauce-mirin-vinegar blend, you can use store-bought yakisoba sauce or katsu sauce, which is tangy and sweet, similar to a thick Worcestershire sauce. You can also make this with shellfish: big prawns, squid rings and scallops are typical. Add them towards the end of cooking so they aren't overdone.