I have always had a fascination with any kind of pasta so I guess it's not much of a stretch to say that my newest obsession is for Udon. The only problem is that I'm not quite sure what to do with them. I'm a pretty experienced cook just not with Udon or asian flavors at that. Heck, I'm not even sure that the little vacuum packs of Udon are even the best way to buy them.
So far I've been limited to "veggie drawer" soup. I take whatever veggies that I have on hand and throw them into some broth (and no not the packet of salt that comes in the pack - real broth) with the noodles. Any suggestions would be great.
I should also mention that I live in coastal South Carolina - not exactly a hot bed for Asian grocers.
Strange as it may sound out here in Southern California there are summer Japanese Buddhist Obon festivals and they all serve udon soup. (yes, we have 100 degree summer days too).
Out of curiosity I Googled "udon noodle salad" and a bunch of recipes came up. I'm tempted to try one of them.
Here is an easy noodle salad that can be used with just about any kind of noodles. It may seem like a lot of ingredients but it goes pretty fast and you can pick & choose your toppings and it’s also a great way to clear out your veggie drawer, which you're already doing! This is just another presentation of the same idea but the lightly sweet and tangy sauce is really nice on the salad.
3-4 tbsp soy sauce
equal amount of water
~1 tbsp finely minced ginger
~1 tsp sugar
~1 tsp mirin (can be skipped if hard to find)
Simmer for about 5 minutes, add a bit of toasted sesame oil & juice of 1/2 lemon. This makes enough sauce for about 4 servings. Can be stretched if you need a little extra by adding a little more soy sauce & water. It’s really forgiving. Sometimes I add some red pepper flakes to spice it up a bit.
Cook & rinse noodles and place on a bed of shredded lettuce - I like green or red leaf
Top noodles with any or all of the following:
Pickled carrots, daikon and/or cucumbers (English, Persian, Japanese or pickling.. just not the huge, seedy ones with the leathery skin) - finely julienne and soak in a mixture of equal parts white vinegar & water, sugar, salt while prepping other stuff. I usually do 2 out of 3.
Mushroom medley - saute some sliced onions, add mushrooms & a splash of soy sauce & water. Cover and let steam for a minute, then remove cover and let the liquid evaporate a bit. Shiitake, maitake, shimeji, enoki work well with Asian flavors but regular old buttons are fine if these are hard to find
Grilled or panfried chicken or salmon, or tofu for a vegetarian version (raw, simmered or panfried)
Steamed broccoli, snow peas, edamame or anything green - just to balance out the palette (or palate, as the case may be)
If you can find it, pickled daikon, sliced thin or julienned - available in most Asian markets, usually bright yellow; provides a nice sweet/tart crunch.
Something herby to finish - cilantro, Korean perilla leaves (my personal favorite), shiso, chopped or chiffonade, or some sliced scallions
Drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if available.
It’s pretty to look at and can be served cold or room temp. I prefer room temp. I’ve been bringing some version of this for my work lunch for several days. Works as a rice bowl too.
As an aside, I have a Japanese cookbook called Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh which talks about including 5 colors in every meal - red, yellow, black, white, green - which naturally provide a balance of nutrients that the body needs in addition to being nice too look at. I try to follow this when I plan a meal. I don't always stick to those colors but I think eating the colors of the rainbow is generally a good way to ensure that you get the necessary nutrients. I think a noodle salad is a great way to eat your rainbow.
Yaki udon, the big brother to yaki soba.
Basically it's stir fried noodles with bits of meat and veggies and a sweet grilling sauce. It pretty easy to do on a cast iron griddle sitting on a gas grill. You don't need exotic ingredients, just your basic napa cabbage, carrot, udon, onion, thin sliced beef...