A few weeks ago, when I was just trying to survive a very busy week, I made a quick udon stir-fry and posted as a story on IG. I did not expect my DMs to blow up with people asking for the recipe. I apologize to those people because I did not have a recipe until today. This dish is quick, versatile, a great way to clean out your fridge, and virtually impossible to fuck up. I am writing the “recipe” based on how I made it today but this is probably the 98th variation of it as I never actually measure the ingredients, so I encourage you to enlist your intuition and use this only as a rough guide.
Because I typically make this dish on a weeknight when I am short on time, I use store-bought pre-packaged udon (vacuum-sealed or frozen). There are udon noodles of varying qualities out there and the best one I have tried is this Korean frozen udon brand, the name of which unhelpfully escapes me because I just steal it from my dad’s freezer whenever I visit. Today for the purposes of writing this recipe and because I had the luxury of time, I made fresh udon from scratch (I used this recipe).
I use whatever is lurking in my veggie drawer, especially if they are looking past their prime. Today I used some leftover peppers and yu choy. Usually I have carrots which I would julienne but today I did not have. You will need some aromatics for the sauce. Mise en place is super important (always, but especially here) as the stir-fry will come together within minutes. Get everything chopped, blanched, pestled, and ready to go before you start stir-frying.
Again, use whatever protein you want. I had some grass-fed steak leftover from making pho yesterday. When I add steak, I cook the steak the same as if I would eat it as a slab (seasoned and seared on a hot skillet) and slice it before adding it to the stir-fry as the very last step. Good alternatives would be chicken, shrimp, or tofu.
You may sense a pattern here but the sauce is dependent on whatever lurks my fridge and pantry at the time. The basic formula is: pounded aromatics + something salty + something acidic + something spicy + something sweet + auxiliary enhancers.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Spicy Udon Stir Fry
1 clove garlic
1 thumbnail-size knob ginger
1 bird’s eye chili (optional)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (less if you want less spicy)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon mirin
1 small handful yu choy/bok choy/spinach
1 serving of udon (100g fresh uncooked or 1 prepackaged serving)
high smoke point oil (e.g., peanut oil)
fine sea salt
1 small steak (4-5 ounces)
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced diagonally
toasted sesame seeds
- Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Let’s make the sauce. Pound the garlic, ginger, and chili in a mortal and pestle to form a paste and transfer to a small bowl. Add and mix the remainder of the sauce ingredients. Give it a taste and adjust as needed.
- Skip this step if you are using spinach. If you are using yu choy (or other hardy green), quickly blanch the greens in the boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer the greens to a colander and rinse immediately under cold water or throw in an ice bath to keep it from cooking further.
- In the same boiling water, cook the udon until slightly underdone as it will complete its cooking in the stir fry (4 minutes for my thinner noodles). If you are using pre-packaged, follow the package instructions and remove 1 minute before advised duration. Drain and rinse thoroughly in cold water to keep it from cooking further.
- Now cook your protein however you want. If using steak, heat up a cast iron with 1 tablespoon of oil on high heat. Generously season the steak with sea salt on all sides and massage it in. Sear the steak 1-2 minutes per side depending on the thickness and your preferred doneness (note: it will cook a bit more in the stir fry process). Remove from heat and set aside for about 5 minutes to rest before thinly slicing.
- Clean your cast iron (or bring out a wok) and heat 1 tablespoon of oil on high heat. Throw on the onions and cook for 1 minute, stirring/tossing the whole time. Then add the other non-leafy vegetables and stir fry for another 1 minute. Then add the leafy greens along with the sauce. Turn heat down to medium and let it bubble for about 1 minute, still stirring. Add the cooked udon, turning the heat back up high, continuously stir frying for another 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water if it looks dry. Finally, add the steak slices, stir one last time for a few more seconds.
- Transfer to a plate, garnish with green onions and sesame seeds, and enjoy immediately.