today we’ll have a go at making our own delicious Udon noodles. How exciting! 🙂 But first, let me tell you a quick story about how my love affair with this Japanese type of pasta began…
Once Upon A Time In Japan
It all started in summer of 2004. I was still studying biology and went on a Botanical excursion to Japan for two weeks. After an exhausting flight, our small group was welcomed by the Japanese professor who was going to be our guide over there. He was a very friendly and funny guy. His English was incredibly hard to understand but still way better than our Japanese of course. He was talking continuously – though nobody really understood what he was saying – and giggled like a teenage girl whenever he finished one of his stories. We drove around in a small bus. Actually, HE drove us around in that small bus. He drove like a madman and had the best of times on those winding, narrow mountain roads. Tyres squeaking, students squeaking, Japanese professor laughing…
Anyhow, on our way out of Tokyo, we stopped at a roadhouse to have a quick lunch before we hit the road. What a surprise to discover that all meals came out of a vending machine! And of course, all descriptions were in Japanese. Oh well. Lucky for me, I ended up with a steaming bowl of delicious Udon noodle soup! Let’s not talk about the disaster of trying to eat that watery soup and long noodles without a spoon… Despite entertaining that entire roadhouse with our attempts at trying to eat with chopsticks, I still remember how much I loved those long, chewy wheat noodles. I was hooked! So, whenever I got the chance to eat them over there, I did. And later, in a Japanese restaurant in Germany, I discovered what I liked even more than Udon noodle soup – Yaki Udon, a kind of Udon noodle stirfry. But more about that later.
Making Udon Noodles At Home
I like to recreate my favourite dishes at home. In fact, more often than not, I enjoy the dishes I cooked myself even more than the ones in a restaurant. Because I know EXACTLY what went into them, I can tweak the flavour to my liking, and it’s less expensive. By the way, that’s also the reason why I bother making my own gummy bears. I have to admit – I don’t make my own pasta very often. Usually, I’m happy to buy dry pasta to stock up my pantry. We are all busy, right? But sometimes the store-bought stuff just won’t cut it. Although I did find Udon noodles at a store, I was so disappointed by all the unnecessary ingredients they contained. There simply was no way around it, I had to make those noodles from scratch. I started researching and experimenting how to make them and was pleasantly surprised to find out how easy it actually is! Moreover, you only need 3 simple ingredients: wheat flour, salt and water.
How to Make Udon noodles
All you need to do is combine those ingredients and knead them for 5 to 10 minutes to make a smooth, elastic dough. Seal the dough inside a plastic bag and let it rest at room temperature for about 2 hours before you start rolling it out. I don’t use a pasta machine for this kind of pasta, just a good old rolling pin. Roll the dough to your desired thickness. I like my Udon noodles quite thick. That might be different for you though. When you roll the dough, try rolling it into a rectangle. When you are done, fold it into thirds like you would fold a letter. Then, get a big, sharp kitchen knife and cut your dough into noodles (however wide you prefer them). If that sounds confusing, don’t worry – I prepared a short video tutorial to show you exactly how I do it.
Put your fresh noodles into boiling water and cook them for about 3 min. Once they are cooked, put them into cold water before you strain them. Voilà, your homemade Udon noodles are ready to use! You can also put them into a plastic bag or container and store them in the fridge for a few days before you use them.
Homemade Yaki Udon
You can eat them a million different ways. In a hearty broth, fried, with vegetables, fish, meat, raw or cooked eggs, or cold with dipping sauce. As I mentioned before, my favourite dish is Yaki Udon.
For this dish, I simply heat about one teaspoon of sesame oil in a large enough pan, add two cloves of garlic (sliced or minced), a thumb-sized piece of minced ginger, some chilli flakes and fry them until fragrant. Then I toss in whatever vegetables I have at hand. Bok Choi, carrots, red onions, capsicum and snow peas are fantastic choices. But feel free to experiment. After stir-frying the veggies for a few minutes, add your homemade Udon noodles. Season with soy sauce and top with sliced spring onion and sesame seeds. Delicious!
Mix It Up!
This might not be a traditional version of this recipe, but it is my take on it. Give it a try – I’m sure you’ll like it too! My version is vegetarian, vegan even, quick and healthy. Even if you are not a vegetarian or vegan, I’m sure you’ll love these noodles. If you like, you can add some extra protein by including tofu. Of course, you could add other sources of protein as well! While I’m definitely an advocate for eating less meat, you could easily include some chicken or another type of meat. On these cases, I would recommend browning the meat/tofu in the pan first to get some nice roast flavours going. Once they are done, take them out of the pan and set them aside for a moment. You can then go ahead and fry your vegetables for a few minutes, add your noodles and protein and you are done!
I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy your own homemade Udon noodles! I certainly love them. And my kids do too. They call them “snake noodles” for obvious reasons and will even eat the colourful vegetables the snakes are hiding in. 😉 How do you like your Udon noodles best? In a soup? In a stir-fry? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂 If you would like to get more recipes, tutorials and inspiration delivered directly into your inbox, all you need to do is to sign up for my newsletter and you’ll never miss a post!