Yaki Udon (Japanese Stir-Fried Udon Noodles)

Yaki Udon recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

There is no kidding around with udon. They are chewy, slippery, rope-sized noodles. For an “over-chewer” like me, who needs to chew every bit of food to a granular level before swallowing it, staring down at a large bowl of udon is daunting. It always makes me think back to this tiny udon shop in the mountains outside of Tokyo.

The Japan Fly Fishers group would kindly take me out on fly fishing excursions, which usually included a stop at some amazing, traditional restaurant along the way (okay, I have to admit they did bring me to Denny’s once for brunch, but if you’ve spent time in Japan, you know that isn’t unusual). After fishing all morning, a few of us walked out of the river and right into what looked like a house, but was a beautiful udon shop where they were hand-making udon and cooking them over a wood fire.

Still in our waders, we sat down at the circular table around the fire, and wrapped our cold hands around each bowl of udon. I closed my eyes and inhaled the steam and aroma, but was suddenly shaken out of my “Folger’s-in-your-cup” moment by the sounds of slurping. Before I chewed on my first noodle, everyone else had already slurped down half their bowls, seemingly swallowing the noodles whole. A few more loud slurps, and the bowls were empty. With tapping feet around me raring to get back to the river, I stuffed my face, chewed like crazy, and choked and coughed on udon until it was gone.

My udon eating skills never improved, but you know what, I still love udon. Just at home now, in a no-pressure, no-slurp zone. Hot in a soup broth, chilled with a dipping sauce, smothered in Japanese curry, or quickly stir-fried like in this Yaki Udon

Yaki Udon (Japanese Stir-Fried Udon Noodles) recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

Yaki in Japanese means stir-fried. So Yaki Udon (焼きうどん) simply refers to stir-fried udon noodles, commonly cooked in a savory sauce with vegetables and a protein. It’s a great way to enjoy udon in the summer, when you want to use up some odds and ends in your refrigerator.

In this recipe, I used some leftover ground pork, shallot, shiitake mushrooms, and carrots. But you can definitely throw in your choice of vegetables and protein. Try adding in bacon, chicken, seafood, or tofu, and some greens like baby spinach or cabbage.

Easy Yaki Udon recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

If you can find fresh udon at the Asian or Japanese grocery store near you, definitely use that. I recommend Sanuki Udon noodles, which have a smooth springy texture when cooked al dente, and the noodles do not break as easily. Alternatively, you can use frozen or dried udon too. 

For the Yaki Udon sauce, I followed a recipe from NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). It’s a combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sake, sugar, water, and curry powder. Just a touch of curry powder really adds a nice layer of flavor to the dish. 

Once the noodles are hot & sizzling, and the sauce is caramelized, sprinkle on some freshly cracked black pepper, and top it with scallions and bonito flakes (or furikake).

Yaki Udon by SeasonWithSpice.com

Yaki Udon (Japanese Stir-Fried Udon Noodles)
Adapted from a recipe on NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
Serves 2

2 packages udon noodles (fresh, frozen, or dried)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 lb ground pork
1 shallot (or 1/2 yellow onion) – thinly sliced
1 carrot – sliced into matchsticks
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms – sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions – thinly sliced
Bonito flakes or furikake (optional)

2 tsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sake

1. Cook udon noodles according to the package instructions. Cook until al dente, being careful not to overcook.
2. While udon is cooking, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
3. In a frying pan, heat sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add in the ground pork and cook until almost cooked through. Then add in the shallot/onion slices, and cook until softened (add in a bit more sesame oil while cooking, if necessary). 
4. Add in shiitake mushrooms, and cook for a minute. Then toss in the carrots, and continue to stir-fry until they are just tender.
5. Finally, add in the cooked udon noodles, and pour in the sauce. Give everything a few tosses to coat well. When the sauce is caramelized and the noodles are hot, turn the fire off. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Dish out and serve. Garnish with scallions and bonito flakes or furikake. Enjoy!