Dinner Tonight: Yaki Udon With Shrimp

Dinner Tonight

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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

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Though I most often picture udon swimming in huge bowls of broth, the thick Japanese noodles are just as comfortable in sautéed form. Well, actually they're boiled, drained, and then sautéed with a handful of other ingredients. The only major issue to look out for is clumping, which can turn the whole dish into a gluey, bland mess. The only way I've figured out to avoid this trap is to stir like a mad man, though I think it's also important to avoid crowding the pan. Basically, keep things as simple as possible.

So, how do you create a dynamic dish without adding too much? You cheat. Okay, not exactly, but hang with me. I settled on a fragrant base of scallion, garlic, and ginger, and a very simple sauce of soy sauce and mirin. To that, I added crunchy red pepper and juicy shrimp. This was all well and good, but the dish didn't really take off until I added some last minute additions, which required no cooking at all. A final sprinkling of bonito flakes and sliced nori added instantaneous umami and funk, while staying far away from the pan.

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