I knew very little about the huge variety of Asian noodles until I came to Hong Kong. The noodles section in any superstore or local market is worth perusing. There is a plethora of noodles to choose from. Cellophane (beancurd) noodles, Chinese wheat noodles (ho fen), ramen noodles, chow mein noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles, mie noodles, Japanese soba noodles, somen noodles and udon noodles are some of the commonly found varieties here.
Udon noodles definitely stand apart, particularly if you happen to be an expat like me. These are Japanese-style noodles, which are thick and wet – meaning, they are packaged with a little water to prevent the noodles from dying up. In Hong Kong, people love to eat Udon noodles stir-fried in soy sauce and or with some added vegetables such as mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, pork, fish balls and squids. What I love the most about these noodles is their chew-ability and its juicy texture. If you like noodles, then udon may quickly become on of your favorite Asian noodle dishes.
Many Asian recipes utilize meat in such a way that only a small amount is sufficient to cook up dishes (particularly noodles) that are quite satisfying and filling. The secret is to add vegetables. Another common way of cooking noodles is to mix seafood and meat, which adds a mingled flavor and texture of completeness to Asian dishes! I do this very often now. For example, mix shrimps and chicken in 1:1 ratio in your cooking and you’ll be astonished by the pleasing taste and aroma this combination imparts.
Stir-Fried Udon with Squids and Pork
[If you do not find fresh udon noodles, use dried. You have to cook the dried ones in boiling water, according to package directions, then drain the water and then pass cold water over the noodles. Proceed with this recipe. Fresh udon does not need boiling.]
Ingredients (serves 4):
Fresh udon packets: 3
Carrots (chopped): ½ cup
Oyster mushrooms: 2 cups
Squids (chopped into ribbons): 2 cups
Boneless pork (one-inch strips): 1 cup
Soy sauce: 1 tbsp
Fish sauce: 1 tsp
Chicken powder (Knorr): 1.5 tbsp
Onion (chopped into squares): 1.5 cup
Garlic (finely chopped): 1 tbsp
French beans (chopped into one-inch-sized pieces): 1 cup
Red bell pepper (cut into thick strips): ¾ cup
Yellow bell pepper (cut into thick strips): ¾ cup
Sesame oil: 8 tbsp (divided)
Chinese cabbage (chopped into thick strips): 1.5 cups
Salt (1 tsp)
Hoisin sauce: 1 tbsp
Miso paste (optional): 1 tsp
Marinate the squids and the pork with the soy sauce for 20 min.
In a pan or a wok, add half of the sesame oil. When it is very hot, add the onion and garlic. Roughly sauté for 2 min. Add the French beans and the pork and the squids, along with the marinade and salt.
Cook for 10 min, or until the marinade becomes dry. Add the oyster mushrooms and the other vegetables. Cook on high heat for 5 min. Now add the chicken powder (mixed with very little warm water) and the fish sauce and cook for five more minutes. Remove the pan from the gas.
In another pan, heat the rest of the sesame oil. When it smokes, add the udon noodles and stir-fry for 5 min on high heat. Add the hoisin sauce and continue for three more minutes. Add the miso paste, dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water.
Now mix the cooked vegetable-pork-squid mixture and the udon properly, under medium flame. Cook for 2 min and serve.