What is yaki udon?
Yaki udon (pronounced ‘yakkie oe-DOHn’) is a stir-fried noodle dish with vegetables and meat or fish. It literally means grilled (yaki) udon noodles (thick wheat noodles). It is deliciously filling and similar to the dish yaki soba. Both dishes have that satisfying quality associated with eating a large plate of pasta; you feel full and end up in carbohydrate heaven.
Udon noodles are thick, firm and white in colour, unlike the thinner, yellowish egg noodles used in yakisoba. Udon noodles are made from a mixture of wheat flour and water, which is kneaded to make them firm. They are essential in many Japanese dishes, including soups like kitsune udon (udon noodles in a dashi bouillon with fried tofu), nabeyaki udon (rich noodle soup made in a nabe, a clay pot) and cold dishes like tanuki udon (cold soup with tenkasu, or tempura flakes). Udon noodles are available frozen, fresh from the refrigerator and dried.
Yaki udon is easy, fast and tasty, and makes a perfect weekday meal; it is often made at home. The beauty of yaki udon is that you can add pretty much whatever you like. For most Japanese this means a lot of vegetables plus a source of protein, such as slices of pork belly, shrimp, squid or tofu.
How to make yaki udon?
First of all, cook the dry noodles until tender. For fresh noodles, soak in hot water then drain, this prevents them from sticking together and breaking up in the pan.
Stir-fry the vegetables in a wok or frying pan. Typical vegetables are shallots, carrots, and cabbage, and the meat or fish can also be stir-fried. Add the noodles, along with soy sauce, some mirin (rice wine) and possibly some dashi (stock) and/or sugar. Once the noodles have absorbed the liquid, the dish is ready.
How to eat
Yaki udon is served with benishoga (red pickled ginger) on the side and katsuo bushi (bonito flakes) on top. Japanese mayonnaise and aonori (dried seaweed) are optional.
Yaki soba is closely related to yaki udon – only the type of noodles differs. Elsewhere in Asia stir-fried noodles are served in the form of pad thai (Thailand), chow mein (China) and bami goreng (Indonesia).