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.
- 2 servings frozen udon, approximately 8 ounces each
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, thinly sliced
- 4 scallions, ends trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced and kept separate
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, minced
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 ounces bean sprouts
- 1/2 sheet nori, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup bonito flakes
- Togarashi for serving (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook udon according to the directions on the packaging. When done, drain in a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and stir-fry until lightly browned and still slightly crisp. Stir in green scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add noodles to the skillet. Stir-fry until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add shrimp, soy sauce, and mirin and stir constantly until shrimp are fully cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss in bean sprouts and cook until just starting to wilt.
Divide the noodles between two bowls. Top with a sprinkling of nori, bonito flakes, and togarashi (optional).