Our easy yaki udon noodles recipe makes the classic Japanese stir fried noodles dish that is perfect for a casual one-bowl lunch or dinner. ‘Yaki’ means ‘fried’ in Japanese and ‘udon’ are delightfully chewy, thick, white, wheat noodles. A classic yaki udon consists of udon noodles stir-fried with vegetables in a soy-based sauce. We sprinkle on some bonito flakes, roasted seaweed and sliced spring onions.
If you’re a noodle-lover and you love Japanese udon noodles as much as I do, and you made and enjoyed my breakfast yaki udon with bacon and eggs, which I shared for last week’s edition of Weekend Eggs, then, trust me, you’re going to adore this easy yaki udon noodles recipe.
This yaki udon noodles recipe will make you my take on the deliciously-addictive Japanese stir fried noodles dish, which I first fell in love with after Terence and I saw the Japanese film, Tampopo, well before our first trip to Japan. If you’ve seen the film no further explanation is necessary.
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Yaki Udon Noodles Recipe for Japanese Stir Fried Udon Noodles
This yaki udon noodles recipe will make you my take on the deliciously-addictive traditional Japanese stir fried noodles dish, which I first fell in love with after Terence and I saw the Japanese film, Tampopo, well before our first trip to Japan.
Sydney had no shortage of Japanese noodle joints – along with fancier and more refined Japanese restaurants in zen gardens, sushi-train lunch-time eateries, and rowdy izakayas where we’d go sing karaoke with a group of friends on Friday nights.
Japan was Australia’s biggest trading partner at the time, and had been since the 1970s, which meant there was a sizeable population of Japanese expats and frequent Japanese business travellers who demanded authentic Japanese food. As a result, Sydney had it in abundance and we were the lucky beneficiaries.
Terence and I would make a beeline for ramen noodle houses on the weekend, but mid-week I’d often pick up some yaki udon or yaki soba takeaway on the way from evening classes at uni – and it was all thanks to a Japanese art house movie called Tampopo.
Sub-titled “a ramen Western” – a play on the Italian ‘spaghetti Westerns’, American Western movies shot in Italian film studios in the 1960s and 1970s – Tampopo was set in a roadside ramen noodle shop that had seen better days.
‘Tampopo’ was the name of the widowed noodle cook and ramen joint owner who, with the help of a truck driver diner, transforms her struggling ramen shop into a roaring success. The quirky culinary comedy gave us our first education in the art of Japanese noodles and inspired us to seek out genuine Japanese noodles in Sydney – and to go to Japan.
Tips to Making this Classic Yaki Udon Noodles Recipe
Our yaki udon noodles recipe calls for the yaki udon noodle sauce to be made first. This is because you need to work quickly once the noodles are in the wok. I recommend using Japanese ingredients such as Japanese soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin.
If I’m only making enough for two, I’ll prepare the source in a little mixing jug with spout but if I’m preparing this dish for four people or more, I use a lidded jar to make the sauce (and most of my sauces), as I can screw the lid on and shake the jar to combine the ingredients. If there’s any leftover sauce the lid goes back on and the jar goes in the fridge.
To a large bowl of warm water, add the brick of fresh udon noodles and leave to soak to loosen the strands of noodles so that they can easily be untangled. If vacuum-packed, the noodles should easily separate in 2-3 minutes. If frozen, it will take longer for the noodles to thaw so that they can easily be pulled apart. Once ready, drain the noodles and set them aside.
We use fresh udon noodles, which we can buy locally thanks to a large population of expats from Japan and Korea. For udon noodle soups, the instructions on both the Korean and Japanese udon noodles advise boiling the noodles first, however, for fried udon noodle dishes they typically recommend frying the udon noodles directly from the packets.
If I find my noodles are soft after cutting open the packet, I’ll empty the udon noodles straight into the wok and stir-fry them gently until the noodles separate easily. However, recently I’ve found the bricks of noodles have been harder and more challenging to untangle, so in that case I’ll soak them for a couple of minutes in warm water.
I use a round flat-bottomed wok for frying the vegetables and noodles, simply because we live in Southeast Asia and I use a wok for almost everything. It cooks faster and there’s far less chance of the noodles sticking.
Lastly, distribute the noodles between bowls, top with the remaining crispy bacon, sprinkle on the sliced scallions/spring onions, bonito flakes, sliced roasted seaweed, and sesame seeds, and serve immediately.
Yaki Udon Noodles Recipe for Japanese Stir Fried Udon Noodles
- 2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp mirin
- 1 tsp katsuobushi bonito flakes
- 1 tsp black and white sesame seeds
- 400 g udon noodles
- 1 tbsp neutral cooking oil such as soybean
- 60 g white onions - roughly diced
- 3 rashers of bacon - sliced into 1cm-wide strips
- 50 g shiitake mushrooms - sliced
- 100 g carrot - sliced into matchsticks
- 150 g green cabbage - shredded
- 1 tbsp finely sliced scallions or spring onions – green parts only
- bonito flakes
- sesame seeds
- sliced roasted seaweed
- sliced scallions/spring onions
- To a small dish, combine two tablespoons of Japanese soy sauce, one tablespoon of sesame oil, one teaspoon of mirin, one teaspoon of katsuobushi bonito flakes, and one teaspoon of black and white sesame seeds, stir to combine, and set aside.
- To a large bowl of warm water, add the brick of fresh udon noodles and leave to soak to loosen the strands of noodles so that they can easily be untangled. If vacuum-packed, the noodles should easily separate in 2-3 minutes. If frozen, it will take longer for the noodles to thaw so that they can easily be pulled apart. Once ready, drain the noodles and set them aside.
- In a round flat-bottomed wok over medium-high, heat the cooking oil until shimmering, add the onions and fry a few minutes until soft and fragrant, add the bacon and fry until cooked, then add the mushrooms, turning to ensure they’re covered in the bacon-infused oil. Let everything sit a little so the onions and mushrooms brown and bacon begins to crisp up, then turn the mushrooms over to brown before giving it all a final stir-fry and remove the wok from the heat.
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop the crispy bacon, onion and mushrooms out and into a small dish so that the bacon oil stays in the wok.
- Add another tablespoon of cooking oil to the wok, heat until shimmering, then stir-fry the matchstick carrots until soft, then the shredded green cabbage until soft. Use the slotted spoon to transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Transfer the udon noodles to the wok and over medium-high heat, stir-fry the noodles so that they’re coated in oil, add the sauce, return the vegetables and three-quarters of the bacon to the wok, and continue to stir-fry until combined and the noodles are hot. Don’t over-fry or the noodles will soften too much and stick to the wok.
- Distribute the noodles between bowls, top with the remaining crispy bacon, sprinkle on the sliced scallions/spring onions, bonito flakes, sliced roasted seaweed, and sesame seeds, and serve immediately.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this yaki udon noodles recipe for Japanese stir fried udon noodles as we’d love to know how the dish turns out for you.