Vegetable Yaki Udon
This quick and easy dish is something us Japanese food lovers have a hard time resisting on a menu. But (like all stir fries) it’s quite easy to make at home, and takes so little time. This is a terrific vegetarian noodle meal, and kids in general love it. Once you get all of the ingredients prepped, the whole thing comes together in about 15 minutes, so if you plan ahead, this is a full-on weeknight dinner. For a vegan version, use agave instead of honey.
Make sure you have all of the ingredients prepped (including cooking the udon, if you used dried) before you start the stir fry, as it will go very fast.
What is Yaki Udon?
Yaki udon is simply stir-fried udon noodles (yaki means “fry”). This is a vegetarian version and you may want to add cubed sauteed tofu or plant based crumbles. For a non-vegetarian version you can add other proteins like ground meat (chicken, pork, beef, lamb) or small or chopped shrimp.
What Are Udon Noodles?
Udon noodles are my family’s favorite Japanese noodle. They are thick (once cooked they plump up considerably; dried they look like fettuccine), silky, chewy, and slurpable wheat based Japanese noodles. You will want to make sure whichever noodles you choose are fully cooked before you add them to the stir fry. They also might have clumped together and need to be separated. This might be easy enough to do by hand, or a 30 second dunk in a pot of boiling water will allow them to float apart easily. Drain and proceed with the stir fry.
Buying Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are available for purchase in a few different ways:
Dry Udon Noodles – these are what I used, and they are available at well stocked supermarkets, Asian specialty markets, and online. These need to be fully cooked in water, and drained, before adding them to a stir fry (follow package directions).
Fresh Udon Noodles – Look for these in the refrigerator section of very well stocked supermarkets with a robust Asian ingredient presence. You can also purchase them online and at Japanese or Asian specialty markets. You might see a light floury or cornstarch coating on the noodles which keeps them from sticking. These also should be cooked and drained before adding them to the stir fry, but their cooking time will be very short, usually about 4 or so minutes. Again, check package directions for timing.
Cooked Udon Noodles – You will also find these vacuum-packed noodles in the refrigerator section of very well stocked supermarkets well-stocked in Asian ingredients. You can also purchase them online and at Japanese or Asian specialty markets. These don’t need to be cooked before adding them to the stir fry, but if they are kind of clumped together than you can separate them by giving them a quick dunk in boiling water, then draining them.
Frozen Udon Noodles – Also available at well stocked supermarkets, Asian specialty markets, and online. These might be uncooked or they might be precooked, so read the label for any defrosting or cooking instructions.
Yaki Udon: A simple, slurpable tangle of noodles with loads of colorful vegetables finished with a quick savory sauce.Tweet This
Ingredients for Vegetarian Yaki Udon
Vegetable stock – the base of the sauce.
Soy sauce – adds salt and umami and also part of the base of the sauce.
Mirin (rice wine for cooking) – If you don’t have mirin, which is available at Asian markets and well stocked markets, as well as online, you can use dry sherry, dry sake, or use 1 ½ teaspoons rice vinegar.
Honey, agave or brown sugar – to add a bit of sweetness to balance out the rich saltiness. Use agave or brown sugar for a vegan recipe.
Chili garlic sauce – to add a bit of heat – you can use another hot sauce if you prefer.
Sesame oil – adds a nutty flavor
Oil for cooking – use vegetable oil or another neutral oil.
Scallions – a generous amount; use the white and green parts for color and flavor.
Garlic – the garlic, along with the scallions create the base of flavor and infuses the oil at the beginning so it blends into the sauce seamlessly.
Julienned carrots – carrots sliced into thin matchsticks add color, sweetness and texture.
Shiitake mushrooms – you can use other types of mushrooms in place of the shiitakes. Try oyster, cremini, or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Bok choy – this mild member of the cabbage family adds silky crisp-tender texture to the stir fry. You could use shredded cabbage instead, either green or napa cabbage.
Bean sprouts – added at the end, these offer nice crunch.
Make Ahead Yaki Udon
You can cut up all of the vegetables up to 2 days ahead of time, and also make the sauce, and store the components in the fridge.
This dish is best eaten right after it’s served, but of course you would NEVER toss any leftovers! You can store the yaki udon in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat them over low heat in a wok or skillet, stirring often, or heat them in the microwave. A few tablespoons of water might need to be added to loosen them up either way.
If you ever go to an Izakaya (Japanese pub) and see this on the menu, order it, and get inspired for your next yaki udon creations!
What to Serve with Yaki Udon:
- Stir-Fried Broccoli
- Japanese Miso Eggplant
- Salad with Japanese Restaurant Dressing
- Japanese Cucumber Salad
- Shishito Peppers
- Avocado Salad with Creamy Miso Dressing
- Spicy, Sweet and Nutty Tofu
Other Asian Noodles Dishes
- Vegetable Udon Noodle Soup
- Thai Chicken Noodle Soup
- Asian Stir Fried Shrimp and Rice Noodles
- Vegetarian/Vegan Pad Thai
- Drunken Noodles
- Noodles with Peanut Sauce
- Shrimp Lo Mein
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- 10 ounces dried udon noodles (or use 1 pound fresh udon noodles)
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- ¼ cup soy sauce , or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine for cooking; see Note)
- 2 teaspoons honey , agave or brown sugar (use agave or brown sugar for a vegan recipe)
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce , or more to taste (or use another hot sauce)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup vegetable or grapeseed oil (any neutral oil)
- 1 cup sliced trimmed scallions , white and green parts
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup julienned carrots (sliced into thin matchsticks)
- 2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps
- 2 cups sliced bok choy
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce. In a small bowl mix together the vegetable oil, soy sauce, mirin, honey or other sweetener, chili garlic sauce or other hot sauce and sesame oil.
- In a wok or a very large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the scallions and stir fry for 1 minute, then add the garlic and stir fry for 30 more seconds. Add the carrots and shiitakes and stir fry for 3 minutes, then add the bok choy and sauté for another 2 minutes until it starts to wilt. Add the udon noodles and the sauce and stir fry until the noodles are hot throughout and the sauce has coated the noodles and vegetables evenly. Add the bean sprouts, toss and serve.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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