Japanese food is highly popular all around the world, and if you visit Japan the same way I did (eating and trying anything curiously edible), it will seriously remain on your palate memories. Japanese food mostly consists of noodles and rice but i can assure you Yaki Udon is one of the best dish i have tried while in Japan.
If you’re a fan of noodles then you will love yaki udon, a Japanese udon noodle dish that is not only easy to prepare but is also delicious. In this article, we discuss the history of yaki udon, its curiosities, and a few more interesting facts about it that will have you looking forward to trying it sometime.
In the article, we also share a simple yaki udon recipe that you could follow at home so that you get a taste of this wonderful Japanese dish. Read on!
History and Curiosities
As already mentioned, yaki udon is a Japanese dish, a stir fry that only takes a short time to prepare. Yaki is a Japanese term that means “broiled”, “pan-fried” or “grilled” and is mostly used in dishes made in hot pots.
The best part about this yaki udon is that you can customize it to your preferred taste. It’s usually smooth, chewy and thick.
Udon’s origin is not 100% known, however, the one thing Japanese people agree on is that it’s been a part of their dishes for centuries, with many having it daily as part of their diet.
Wheat was first cultivated back in 7000 BCE and when wheat was harvested first in Mesopotamia, both the milling technique and the wheat were then introduced to China.
China resorted to processing this wheat and then came up with noodles in several varieties. One of the variations was cut-noodle which is included in udon.
To date, several theories exist concerning udon’s existence in Japan, all of which have caused a debate. However, it is agreed that during the 700s, an envoy sent to China introduced udon’s predecessor to Japan.
They were a type of confection that was created from blending wheat and rice flours and twisting the mixture into rope shapes. These were overtime made into noodles that resemble udon.
Udon gained popularity, particularly in mid-Edo times. The population of Edo( presently Tokyo) also increased and this saw a rise in the number of people with disposable income who were for enjoying a convenient and quick bite.
Today, Udon is loved and enjoyed and remains big in Japanese popular cuisine.
It is also said by some that udon noodles were first introduced to Japan during the 618-907 CE, the period of the Tang dynasty. The original one looked more like a dumpling and less like a noodle, which would explain why in certain parts of Japan, people still cut it into squares instead of long strands.
The long strands became standard in the early 14th century. It was traditionally made at home but over time, people started selling it in stalls, and today, yaki udon is eaten in all parts of Japan, especially in the southern regions from Osaka to Kyushu.
A third tale says that udon originated after the Second World War in Kokura, Fukuoka Prefecture, an area in the southern part of Japan. It was a time when food was relatively scarce.
The owner of a certain noodle restaurant known as Darumado used these udon noodles in the preparation of yakisobas in the absence of proper noodles.
Yaki Udon Vs. Soba
Yaki udon is a tasty dish that is prepared by frying udon noodles in a pan or in some cases, it is prepared by stir-frying in a variety of sauces.
Udon in itself is made through a process of kneading wheat flour, salt, and water. It is usually sold fresh, dried and in some cases frozen. The dried udon comes in different thicknesses and is dense.
The frozen and fresh variations are also quite thick but have a great chewy texture. These udon noodles have a mild taste and are served in some broth as a noodle soup.
This broth is usually light. They can also be made into a stir fry or served alongside a dipping sauce. Thanks to the neutral flavor, udon can be served alongside a variety of broths with different flavors making it highly versatile. The dish is also easy on your stomach.
Soba, on the other hand, is primarily made from buckwheat flour. While there’s a gluten-free version that only contains buckwheat flour, most of what is available contains wheat flour of some kind that holds the noodles together during the process of production.
Compared to yaki udon, soba is thinner and it looks like flat spaghetti. Their color is mostly light to a darker brown-gray. Soba also has a nutty flavor and a strong smell. It is mostly served dried.
Soba is served cold in salads or alongside dipping sauces. Since it has a strong taste, the sauces that are often served alongside soba are usually light in flavor. This is to allow the natural taste of soba to shine through. This way, you get a great balance.
Nabeyaki udon refers to a hot udon noodle soup that is served in individual earthenware pots or iron pots traditionally. The pot is called “nabe” and it’s thanks to it that this dish has the name Nabeyaki. The nabe pots can be placed directly on your stove when you’re preparing the dish.
This soup normally comes with some kamaboko( fish cake), chicken, mushrooms, and some vegetables like long green onions, spinach, and carrots. It is also served with a large shrimp or an egg.
This dish is popular in most udon restaurants in Japan but it’s mostly served during the winter season.
Yaki Udon Recipe
12 pounds pre-cooked Japanese noodles
1 onion (chopped)
1 carrot (julienned)
4 pounds pork belly fish (finely sliced)
4 pounds cabbage (white and thinly sliced)
2 pounds dashi broth powder
3 pounds soybean sprouts
For your sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons ginger (freshly grated)
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
For the garnishing
1 tablespoon katsuobushi dried to form some borito flakes
2 springs scallion(finely chopped)
1 tablespoon benishoga red marinated ginger
1 tablespoon aonori flakes seaweed
- Start by cutting the already sliced pork belly into long pieces of about an inch each.
- In a saucepan, add about 6 cups of water and allow to boil.
- Into the mixture, add the udon, and then ensure you cook until it is untangled for about five minutes.
- Drain and then set aside.
For the sauce
- In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, grated ginger and mirin then set the bowl aside for some minutes.
- In a large pan, pour the rapeseed oil and then heat. Ensure you’ve placed it over high heat.
- Saute the pork until it turns golden after which you can add in the onions, carrots, and cabbage. Allow it to brown for a few minutes ensuring you stir it regularly. Do this until the vegetables are tender.
- To this mixture, add the udon as well as the soy sprouts then sauté alongside the pork and vegetables.
- In the mixture, also add the reserved sauce and also dashi powder.
- Brown the mixture until everything inside is well seasoned and then cover evenly with the sauce for about two minutes.
- Serve the yaki udon hot on plates then sprinkle it with some bonito flakes, scallions, marinated ginger, as well as the aonari flakes.
This dish serves 4 people and is best eaten as a main course dish.
Udon is popular in Japan because it’s also cheap aside from being delicious and easy to prepare.
Yaki Udon Calories
Depending on the serving size and quantity of ingredients used one Yaki Udon portion is around 380 to 550 calories.
While there are a variety of Japanese noodles that are all delectable, nothing is quite like the udon. Eating yaki udon comes with several health benefits. The dish contains plenty of nutrients.
To begin with, you will get carbohydrates when you eat yaki udon. This is the much-needed type that the body can slowly process. As a result, you will feel fuller for longer so no need to worry about hunger pangs too soon.
You will, therefore not end up overeating. The complex carbohydrates also help you in the digestion of other foods which results in a healthier digestive system.
From eating yaki udon, you will also get vitamin B, including riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and folate that go a long way in stress reduction and also promote your overall health.
As you can see, this classic Japanese dish is worth trying out should you ever find yourself in Japan. However, if you are in any other part of the world, it is worth trying out the recipe above and if you follow the steps correctly, you should be able to enjoy this dish from the comfort of your home within just a few minutes.
With the yaki udon dish, you will not only enjoy the delectable taste but will also get the numerous health benefits the dishes come with.