I think nothing of adapting an Italian pasta recipe to whatever I happen to pick up at the store (and/or have leftover in the fridge). In fact, these creations are often some of the most satisfying meals. So it's puzzling that I haven't adapted the same attitude with Asian noodle dishes, where I instead obsess over each and every ingredient (refusing to make a recipe until I have all the necessary components). But I'm learning to lighten up; this week I decided to make an udon noodle dish with bay scallops and baby bok choy.
The bay scallops are cooked over high heat until lightly browned, but are removed before they get rubbery. Then the baby bok choy are tossed in and cooked until bright green and tender. Total cooking time for both is about three minutes.
Frozen udon continues this quick cooking trend. They are an especially handy noodle to have around, since most take only about a minute to cook in boiling water, yet still retain that soft and bouncy texture so ideal for slurping. Honestly, I haven't had as much luck with the dried udon noodles, but it could be the brand.
Now I just needed a sauce to pull it all together, so I combined soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, a little sugar, and chicken stock. This lets the fresh and sweet scallops do the hefty lifting, while still seasoning the noodles.
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound bay scallops, dried on paper towels
- 1 pound baby bok choy, ends trimmed, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon mirin (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 servings fresh or frozen udon
- Pinch togarashi (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over high heat until just starting to smoke. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add half of scallops to skillet. Cook without moving until well browned on once side, about 45 seconds. Stir and continue cooking until lightly browned on remaining sides, about 30 seconds longer. Remove scallops with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Reheat oil until smoking and repeat with remaining scallops.
Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add bok choy and stir well. Stir fry until bright green and tender, about 1 minute. Pour in stock, soy sauce, sesame oil, and mirin. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low.
Cook udon according to directions on the packaging. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to the skillet. Toss well and cook over medium-high heat until noodles mostly absorb the sauce, about 30 seconds. Stir in scallops and cook until barely heated through. Sprinkle with togarashi (if desired) and serve immediately.
Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine. It can be found in most Asian markets near the soy sauce and vinegar. Togarashi is a Japanese chili powder blend. It comes in several forms. Any of them can be used for this recipe.