Yaki Udon is a Fukuoka variation on one of Japan’s most beloved street foods- yakisoba, or fried noodles. A colourful mixture of lightly wilted but still crunchy vegetables, a mound of chewy noodles and a scattering of meat or seafood, all fried together and coated in a sweet, fruity and slightly spicy sauce. At festivals and in parks up and down Japan you’ll find yatai food carts serving yakisoba, the smell of the sōsu caramelizing on the huge iron hot-plates enticing you over and tempting you into having a bowlful. Despite the name suggesting it should be made from buckwheat soba noodles, most of the country makes yakisoba with long, thin wheat noodles similar to ramen, while the people of Fukuoka have elevated the dish to an even more substantial place by making it with our personal favourite noodle, the thick and toothsome udon.
A seafood yaki udon was perhaps the first Japanese meal we ever ate, back in 2001, and it has remained a firm favourite since then. Not many weeks pass by without us making a panful at least once, loaded with vegetables for a quick after-work evening meal. It’s an almost infinitely flexible dish, add whatever vegetables or meat you like to it, just make sure that they’re bright, colourful and full of varied flavours and textures.
- 400g udon noodles (two packs)
- 16 large raw, shelled prawns
- 6 rasher smoked pancetta
- 2 chikuwa
- 1 small white cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 large onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 1/2 red pepper
- 125g bean sprouts (approximately one large handful)
- 50g oyster mushrooms
- 50g mangetout
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons sōsu (shop bought or from our recipe here)
- 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons dashi broth
- 2 cloves garlic
- aonori, finely sliced spring onions and pickled ginger to serve
- Finely slice one of your cloves of garlic, then mince the second one, keeping them separated. In a large frying pan, heat up the oil then add the garlic slices and fry until golden brown (not too dark though or it will start to taste bitter). Remove the garlic chips to a plate lined with kitchen roll, they will still be flaccid when you stop frying them but will quickly crisp up out of the oil. Add the prawns to the garlic-scented oil in the pan, then fry quickly until they are cooked- around two minutes. Take the prawns out of the pan, and set aside for later.
- Cut the carrot and chikuwa into thin diagonal slices, the red pepper into bite-sized lengths, and top-and-tail the bean sprouts. Chop the onion into thin half-moons, the pancetta rashers into thirds, and add these both to the hot oil. Sauté over a medium heat until the bacon has crisped and released its smoky fat into the pan, then add the minced garlic and carrot slices and cook for a further two to three minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the noodles as per the package instructions, usually around three to four minutes. Drain the noodles and reserve; it’s a good idea to lightly dress them with a little oil at this point as it stops them sticking together when you add them to your dish later on- just a teaspoon of vegetable oil should be enough.
- Add the shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, mangetout, red pepper, mushrooms and chikuwa to the pan with the onions and pancetta; stir fry these over a high heat for a couple of minutes so that the vegetables are softened at the edges but still retain a slight crunch.
- Now add in the cooked udon and prawns, stirring well to mix all of the ingredients together. In a small bowl, combine the sōsu, oyster sauce and dashi stock, pour this over your yaki udon and mix again to make sure everything is evenly coated with sauce. Fry for a minute more then divide the stir fry between your serving dishes, adding chopped spring onions, pickled ginger and fried garlic slices to each portion, then finish with a sprinkling of aonori flakes.
Serves 4 people.