For fluffy Japanese noodles, borrow an Italian technique

Japanese udon noodles are chewy, but it’s hard to replicate the texture with what’s available in US markets.

Fresh udon are hard to find. So for this recipe from our “Milk Street Tuesday Nights” book, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we needed a solution for more widely available dry udon.

Get into the Italian technique of cooking the noodles until al dente – still quite firm. To further firm up the texture, we chilled them by rinsing them with ice in the colander under cold water. Even after reheating the noodles in the cooked sauce, they retained that pleasant, delicious quality that makes this vegetarian dish so hearty.

Once the texture was settled, we opted for an umami-heavy sauce of soy sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms and semi-sweet rice wine mirin, all balanced with a little sugar. Fresh shiitakes and mild-tasting mini bok choy kept the stir-fry light.

To balance out the flavor, we turned to pickled ginger, which you can find jarred in the Asian food section of grocery stores. For extra flavor, sprinkle shichimi togarashi Japanese spice mix at the table.

Be sure to start checking the doneness of the udon well before the suggested cooking time. They will cook a little more once added to the sauce.

Pickled Ginger Yakiudon


Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 4

12 ounces dried udon noodles

2 tbsp plus 2 tsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil, divided

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons mirin

1 teaspoon of white sugar

3 small dried shiitake mushrooms, halved

8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, halved if large, thinly sliced

1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

12 ounces mini bok choy, trimmed and sliced ​​crosswise ½ inch thick

½ teaspoon ground white pepper

2 green onions, thinly sliced ​​on the bias

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Shichimi togarashi, for serving (optional)

Pickled ginger, for serving

In a large saucepan, bring 4 liters of water to a boil. Add the udon, mix well and cook until al dente. Drain with a colander, then add 2 cups of ice cream to the noodles. Run under cold water, stirring, until cool. Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl. Toss with 2 teaspoons of oil, then set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the soy sauce, ¼ cup water, mirin and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring, then add the dried mushrooms, pushing them into the liquid. Remove from heat, cover and set aside until mushrooms have softened and cooled, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the mushrooms from the soy sauce mixture, pressing them to allow any liquid to drip back into the pan. Remove and discard the stems, then chop them finely. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Add fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and slightly shrunken, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bok choy and cook, stirring, until leaves are wilted and stem pieces are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add to chopped dried shiitakes.

Set the now empty skillet over medium heat and add the udon, tossing gently with tongs. Add vegetable mixture, stir gently a few times, then add soy sauce mixture and white pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the noodles are hot and have absorbed most of the liquid, about 2 minutes. Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve with pickled ginger.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, visit Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap

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