The Japanese noodle dish yaki udon is made from stir fried udon noodles. These are then flavored with a yummy sauce and made either vegetarian or with slices of chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp. You can put it together in less than 30 minutes, and I’ll show you how.
What Is Yaki Udon?
You’re probably familiar with traditional Japanese udon noodles, and when you make them using a stir fry method, they become yaki udon. The sauce you’ll use for this dish is known as yaki udon sauce, and you can make it from soy sauce, mentsuyu Japanese soup base, and black pepper.
The dish usually includes some sort of protein, which could be a meat, but you could also use soya chunks or tofu. You could even add beans, if you like, though that’s not really a traditional Japanese ingredient for this dish.
Some people will top their yaki udon with bonito flakes or red pickled ginger to give it some added color, texture, or flavor.
What Does Yaki Udon Taste Like?
When you put all this together, you get a really flavorful, complex stir fry. It essentially tastes like most stir fry dishes you probably had before, with a little added flavor from the sauce. The sauce and the noodles combine to create a tangy and salty flavor.
The veggies in the dish, if you’ve added them, can help to counter those flavors so they’re not too overpowering. Be careful about using a really salty meat with this dish, as you can end up with a salt overload.
What Is Yaki Udon Soup?
This soup version takes the basic stir fry dish and adds a thin broth to it. It shares a lot of the same flavors with the stir fry dish, and the broth us usually made from dashi soup stock. Japanese soups tend to be very watery, so use plenty of broth when you are making it. Some people will add a few dashes of mirin (Japanese wine) for extra flavor in the broth.
While you may not have any mushrooms in the stir fry, they are almost always added to the yaki udon soup. Use thin slices and cook them well so that they are easily digestible.
How to Make Yaki Udon
Let me give you a recipe for making yaki udon at home from scratch.
- 2 servings of udon noodles
- 2 cabbage leaves
- 1/2 of an onion
- 2 crapake mushrooms
- 1 carrot
- 2 green onions
- Optional- 1/2 pound of meat (chicken, pork, shrimp, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
- 3 tablespoons of mentsuyu (or tsuyu)- use concentrated mentsuyu for best results, but you can use the non-concentrated version and just add extra to get the right flavor
- Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
- Prepare your noodles by heating a large pot of water until it boils and then adding the noodles. Frozen udon noodles will need to be blanched in boiling hot water for a minute first.
- Cut the carrot into long strips, slice your onion, and cut up the cabbage into small pieces.
- Get rid of the stems from the crapake mushrooms and slice the tops of the mushroom. Slice the top of the scallions (green part) and set that to the side to use as a garnish. Cut up the rest of the scallions into small pieces.
- Cut up your meat (if using) into pieces that are about an inch long.
- Heat up a frying pan with cooking oil on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add your meat and cook until it’s almost done. Then, put your onions into the pan and cook them until they soften.
- Add in the carrots and cabbage, making sure they get coated with oil. Add the scallions and mushrooms next and stir until all the vegetables start to wilt slightly.
- Add in the udon noodles and mix everything together. Season with soy sauce, black pepper, and mentsuyu, stirring everything in.
You can then garnish your yaki udon with bonito flake or pickled red ginger. You may need to adjust some of the seasonings to suit your tastes, adding more or less soy sauce and mentsuyu than directed.
What Is Chicken Yaki Udon?
You can make yaki udon a lot of different ways, and while some people will opt for a vegetarian version, you could add any variety of meats to it.
Chicken yaki udon is probably the most common variation on the basic dish, and to help really drive that chicken flavor through the stir fry, you can use a little chicken stock to flavor the dish.
The chicken can be cut small so that it cooks fast, and that means you can cook the chicken with the noodles, preparing everything at the same time. This makes things convenient for you, saves you a bit of work, and helps to unify the flavors of the dish.
What Is the Difference between Yaki Soba and Yaki Udon?
These two dishes are very similar, but the difference is primarily in the kind of noodles that you would use for them. Yakisoba is made using soba noodles, and the preparation process is the same as that of yaki udon. You just substitute one kind of noodles for another. Other than that, the method of making the noodle dish is practically the same.
Udon noodles are made using wheat flour, and soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. That buckwheat gives the noodles a grainier texture, and udon noodles are a bit denser and somewhat chewy compared to soba noodles.
Now, you know a little bit more about making this traditional Japanese dish. Hopefully, you’ll feel confident enough to try it for yourself, and then you can add to what I’ve already given you to make your own variations and to make the dish more to your liking. It’s a dish that allows for a lot of variation and customization to tailor it to your tastes.