When it comes to Japanese cuisine, most people are pretty familiar with what you can find in restaurants — Sushi, ramen, tempura, miso soup, and perhaps (if you’re really adventurous) sukiyaki.
It’s too bad, because many delicious Japanese dishes just aren’t very popular here in the States. Udon in particular gets very little love. Maybe it’s the wide chewy noodles that turn people off. Or, maybe it’s the fact that the noodles themselves aren’t terribly flavorful. Either way, udon has to live in the shadow of more popular Japanese noodle dishes, like ramen.
It’s unfortunate, because with the right recipe udon can deliver incredible levels of umami, just like ramen!
Today I’m going to share one such recipe — Garlic Butter Yaki Udon! The best part? It takes a fraction of the time to prepare compared to ramen. In 5 to 10 minutes, you can have this incredible udon dish ready to eat!
Garlic Butter Yaki Udon — The Recipe
Step One: Gather Ingredients
Since every good recipe starts with a list of ingredients, here’s what you’ll need for Garlic Butter Yaki Udon:
- Two 8 oz packages of frozen Udon.
- Two tablespoons of butter
- 1.5 tablespoons of garlic
- 1 bundle of green onions.
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of Japanese soy sauce (Amazon recommendation)
- 1 teaspoon of hondashi (Amazon Recommendation)
- 1 cup of dried bonito flakes (Amazon Recommendation)
- A few sheets of unflavored yaki nori (Amazon Recommendation) OR kizami nori (shredded) (Amazon Recommendation)
As this is a Japanese dish, there are a couple of unusual ingredients you may need to acquire before cooking. I’ve linked to a few examples from Amazon, but in most cases your local asian grocery store is going to offer better options (and possibly better prices).
First, you need to find a good quality udon. There are a number of udon styles available, but by far the most popular is sanuki-style udon — A square udon noodle with a firm chewy texture.
You should be able to find pre-cooked frozen packages at your local asian grocery store. That’s what I use. I don’t have a preference for any particular brand. They’re usually quite similar, and I just buy whatever’s on sale.
If you can’t find frozen udon, dried udon is another option. Dried will definitely need to be boiled longer.
Next, comes dried bonito flakes. These are called katsuobushi in Japanese. Sometimes the labels are not in English. They come in a variety of sizes, but for this application, smaller-sized flakes work best. (Amazon Recommendation). Again, brand isn’t super important here. Just make sure they’re “made in Japan” and they are the smaller sized flakes used for garnish (not the larger ones used for making soup stock).
Nori is the next unusual ingredient you’ll want to find. Nori is a kind of Japanese seaweed commonly used to wrap sushi. You need to find unflavored nori. If you can find “kizami nori”, that’s preferable. (It’s pre-shredded yaki nori and makes a nice garnish. These are the easiest option.)
However, if you’re super-cheap like me, you can just buy sheets of yaki-nori and shred it yourself using a scissors (more on this later).
The next must-have ingredient for almost any kind of Japanese cooking, is hondashi. Ajinomoto brand is the gold-standard for hondashi. I wouldn’t buy anything else to be honest. I typically buy large bags of it, like this:
If you don’t cook Japanese recipes as frequently as I do, you might want to find a smaller jar of it (like this)
Step Two: Prep
While this yaki udon recipe is super fast and easy, there are still a couple things you’ll want to prepare ahead of time…
Like thawing the udon! I usually put the packages on the counter-top a couple of hours before I start cooking.
If you’re in a hurry you can dunk it in a bath of warm water to speed things up a bit. Or even microwave it!
Next, you’ll want to clean your bundle of green onions and trim off the roots. These are pretty dirty from the store, so spend some time cleaning the green onions up to get the best results.
Chop the bundle of green onions as finely as you can. I’m no master chef, but something like this is what you’re looking for.
If you’re using fresh garlic, now is a good time to chop that too. I usually toss mine in a food processor to mince it very fine.
The next thing to prepare is the dashi broth. Take one teaspoon of hondashi and dissolve it in a little water. 1-2 tablespoons of water is adequate.
And that’s it for prep! Time to cook!
Step Three: Boil Udon (Optional)
This next step is entirely optional. Traditional udon recipes say you need to boil udon, but the frozen packages you often find at the store are often pre-cooked. Meaning, you don’t have to boil them.
The difference really comes down to texture and what you prefer. If you like a slightly firmer and chewier noodle, don’t boil. If you want a softer more delicate noodle, boil for 3-4 minutes, and then strain off the water.
Step Four: Stir Fry
Next comes the fun part — Stir frying the noodles! Begin by putting 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and turn the heat to medium-high.
Once the butter is melted, add the 1.5 tablespoons of finely chopped garlic. I had minced garlic on-hand, so that’s what I used. Cook the garlic, but be careful not to burn it.
Once the garlic is cooked, add your noodles to the pan. If you boiled the noodles, be sure to drain the water thoroughly.
Next, add the dashi broth to the noodles. Mix the noodles with tongs.
At this point, it’s time to add the 3-4 tablespoons of soy sauce. The proper amount to use is up to you. Use 3 tablespoons for a less salty version, use 4 or more tablespoons for a saltier version. My advice is to start with less, and then add more later if you want.
Time for the tuna flakes! Use about half here, and retain the other half for a garnish. Turn the heat up to HIGH and mix the noodles thoroughly.
Keep mixing. Stir fry for a few minutes until the liquid disappears from the bottom of the pan. This should take about 3 minutes. Keep mixing every 30 seconds. Don’t burn the noodles!
Next, add about half the green onions to the pan, and mix them in. The other half of the green onions will be used for garnish.
At this point, the cooking portion of this recipe is done. You can turn the heat off and start plating.
Step Five: Plating
As with most Japanese recipes, presentation is a big part of of how the recipe turns-out. Pick out a fancy bowl and then transfer the noodles from the pan.
Garnish the noodles with some of the remaining tuna flakes.
Then, garnish with some fresh green onions. This is a very common form of garnish for Japanese noodle dishes!
Now it’s time to add the nori. If you purchased shredded nori, then you won’t need to do any cutting here. If you decided to go cheap, grab one of your larger nori sheets and get cutting. I usually cut small strips 1 inch to 1.5 inches long.
And that’s it! You’re done making Garlic Butter Yaki Udon! It’s super easy to make, and LOADED with flavor!
Give It A Try!
Thanks for taking the time to check out the recipe ! It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted a recipe post, but several people have been asking for this recipe, so I figured I better do it!
While udon isn’t nearly as popular as ramen, it can be just as good (if not better)! Give this recipe a try and I think you’ll be surprised how delicious yaki udon can be!
Let me know in the comments how the recipe turns out for you!