Yaki udon is a classic Japanese noodle dish and one of Japan’s most prized dishes. Unassuming in their simplicity, udon are some of the most popular noodles in Japan. A bowl of stretchy udon is as popular in Japan as spaghetti in Italy.
What is yaki udon?
Yaki udon is a Japanese noodle stir-fry dish which can be prepared very quickly. Yaki means “grilled”, “broiled”, or “pan-fried” in Japanese. Udon is commonly used in hot pot types of dishes.
Similar to yakisoba, another type of popular stir-fry noodle dish, yaki udon can be customized to your liking. Udon are the thick, smooth and chewy noodles, made from wheat flour as opposed to soba which are thinner and made from buckwheat flour.
What is the origin of udon?
The origin of udon is not entirely certain. One thing for sure is that the Japanese have been eating udon noodles for centuries, as part of their daily diet.
The cultivation of wheat began about 7,000 BCE. It is said that wheat first appeared in Mesopotamia. Harvested wheat, along with the technique for milling the flour, was brought to China, the country known by some to be a shrine to dining culture.
China then processed the wheat and developed noodles. Among the many varieties of noodles being made, the ones called “cut-noodle types” included udon and soba.
There are many theories with regard to when udon made its appearance in Japan and much debate over the specifics. It is generally agreed, however, that an envoy to China during the 700s introduced the predecessor of udon to Japan.
How udon was first used in a dish
It originated in Kokura, Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan after the Pacific War. The widely accepted story of how the dish was created dates back to just after World War II, when food was scarce.
The owner of the noodle restaurant Darumado used udon noodles in popular yakisoba preparations because the proper noodles were not available.
Today’s typical udon dishes, such as tempura udon, tamogo toji udon, and torinanban, were developed during the period from mid-Edo through late-Edo, when Edo’s food culture was in full swing.
Today, about 300 years later, they are as thoroughly enjoyed and just as indispensable as a part of Japanese cuisine as they were back then.
How to make udon?
These long, thick, white, plump and chewy noodles are made of only three ingredients: wheat flour, salt and water. After being vigorously kneaded to ensure that the texture of the noodles will be just right, the dough is then cut into easy-to-slurp sized strips and cooked in a pot of boiling water.
Yaki udon always uses udon noodles, as it is very versatile and you can use it in a number of ways. In hot soup like kitsune udon and nabeyaki udon, or in cold dishes like tanuki udon, and lastly they taste great in stir fried dishes as well.
Udon is very popular in Japan because it is cheap, delicious and easy to cook in many different ways. Yaki udon is a lovely udon dish where the udon noodles are fried in a frying pan or stir fried in different sauces.
The style of eating udon with broth made from bonito and flavored with soy sauce began post-Genroku (1688-1704), which was considered to be the golden age of the Edo period when commercial economies rapidly expanded and urban cultures blossomed. This was the time when soy sauce began to be used throughout the country.
While yaki udon is a quick and easy meal frequently eaten at home, it’s not confined to home kitchens; udon shops range from less expensive fast-food styles to fashionable sit-down types aimed at the well-heeled.
Popular udon dishes
Zaru udon (cold) noodles are chilled and served on a bamboo mat. They are accompanied by a dipping sauce and are dipped into the dipping sauce before eating.
Kake udon (hot) is a basic udon dish, served in a hot broth that covers the noodles. It has no toppings and is usually garnished with only green onions. Kake udon is also known as su udon in the Osaka region.
Curry udon (hot) is udon noodles served in a bowl of Japanese curry. It is a popular dish to eat in winter as it is very warming. Because eating curry udon can be messy, some restaurants offer disposable bibs.
Tempura udon (hot or cold) is usually served in a hot broth with the tempura pieces placed on top of the noodles. Sometimes, the tempura is placed on a separate dish beside the bowl or tray of noodles.
What are the benefits of udon noodles?
There are so many delectable Japanese noodles, so why choose a big bowl of udon? Like much Japanese cuisine, udon noodles provide an abundance of health benefits that make them a wonderful source of nutrients.
For starters, udon noodles provide complex carbohydrates. These are the good kind, which are processed slowly by your metabolism. This means that you will feel satisfied longer, which helps prevent overeating.
Complex carbohydrates like udon noodles also aid in digestion of other foods, which is good for your digestive health. Udon noodles are rich in Vitamin B, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate. These vitamins help reduce stress and promote overall better health.
With that being the case, you make yourself a guilt free bowl of yaki udon, and enjoy the slurping.
- 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- Cut the sliced pork belly into 1 inch long pieces.
- Add 6 cups of water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add the udon and cook until untangled and al dente (about 5 minutes).
- Drain and reserve.
- Mix the soy sauce, mirin and grated ginger in a bowl. Set aside.
- Heat the rapeseed oil in a large pan over high heat.
- Sauté the pork until golden, then add onion, carrot and cabbage. Brown for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the udon and soy sprouts and sauté with the vegetables and pork.
- Add the dashi powder and the reserved sauce.
- Brown until all the ingredients are seasoned and covered with the sauce evenly (about 2 minutes).
- Serve the hot yaki udon on a plate. Sprinkle with scallions, bonito flakes, marinated ginger and aonori flakes (seaweed).