U is for Udon!
U is for UDON!!!!!!!
Sorry to yell, but I am excited to get back to the “A to Z” cooking in my kitchen. After a whirlwind of Superbowl and Valentine’s Day recipes, we are now going back to how this blog got started… A to Z baby.
I did “T is for Toffee” just before Christmas time, and I was somewhat dreading heading into this last stretch of letters: U, V, W, X, Y, Z.
But after choosing, and cooking with, my lovely ‘U’ ingredient, I’m feeling a little less apprehensive about the end of the alphabet.
I love Udon.
There’s something I never thought I’d say. I really didn’t even know what ‘Udon’ noodles were before this. But the pickings are slim when it comes to ingredients that start with ‘U’.
Udo. Ugli fruit. Umeboshi plums. Unagi. Upma. Urgelia Cheese.
See? Slim pickings. I have no idea what any of the above ingredients are. I don’t need to look them up. I already know they aren’t at the grocery store. Though they would probably make great ingredient options for “Chopped” (one of my favorite shows by the way).
My recipe today must begin by officially introducing you to our “U” ingredient… UDON!
Let me give you a visual…
They are hiding there in the “Asian” section of your supermarket. You don’t need “Organic” like I bought. They were the only option at my store. Just buy whatever kind you can find. You’ll want to follow the directions on the package for cooking them as Udon can differ a bit depending on their manufacturer. The easiest kind to find are the dried version but you might be able to find fresh udon at an Asian specialty market. I haven’t tried them but I’ve heard they are better than the dried version.
‘Asian’ food is one of those things that makes you wonder, after you whip up a batch, why you don’t make it at home more often. (Or maybe you do make it often and that’s just me.) It truly is very easy to make and the flavors are delicious. And, most importantly, it makes you a more satisfied, fulfilled, accomplished person with flawless skin, toned muscles, a brilliant mind, and a cheerful personality.
Okay, so those last few things are not necessarily true.
But it is really easy to make!
And oh, is it TASTY.
Udon noodles are fairly neutral in flavor all by their lonesome. But this made them perfect for experimenting with in my kitchen. They seemed to take on whatever flavors I added to them! They are a go-with-the-flow noodle. They are noodle-icious! Or something like that.
I thought it appropriate to go “Asian-flavored” for these “Asian” style noodles. At least for my first recipe. No promises after this.
I started with a medium onion. I cut it in half and then thinly sliced both halves.
Then, because I need a lot of onions in my life, I also chopped up a couple of green onions.
Or, if you don’t like onions…. you can call them scallions.
I used the white and light green parts in the dish and the dark green parts for garnish.
Then four cloves of garlic. You can use less or more as you desire.
1 heaping teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
Added in the garlic.
And a heaping teaspoon of canola oil to bind this little mixture together. This gets set aside for now.
Now another little mixture to prep.
This starts with some lime juice.
My hand looks red and dry… and there is something suspicious under my thumbnail.
Let me just defend my hands by saying that I wash my hands A LOT.
I change a lot of diapers everyday (I have a just-turned-2 year old and a 5-month-old). And then I wash my hands. I hope.
I wash a lot of dishes. Some of this is everyday turmoil. Some is self-inflicted when I experiment with recipes. I basically destroy my kitchen.
I clean up a lot of messes. Of all varieties. I won’t bore you… or gross you out… with the details. But it requires washing my hands afterwards.
My hands gets red. They get dry. Hence the photo above.
But as far as the suspicious object under my fingernail goes…. I have no explanation. I’ll just say it’s a pepper fleck.
I’m sure that’s all it is.
Next up…. some SOY sauce.
There’s that pepper fleck again.
And some FISH sauce. Looks a lot like the soy… a little lighter in color.
That darn pepper fleck is still there.
And now…. one of my favorite ingredients out there… BROWN SUGAR. Sigh.
The pepper fleck is gone!!!
I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
And now for the meat. I used 1 1/2 pounds of Beef Tri-Tip but Beef Tenderloin would work too.
I cut it into cubes. Maybe right around 3/4 inch? You want them all about the same size so they cook at the same rate.
I seasoned ’em up with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper!
Then I heated up some canola oil over medium-high heat in a large, nonstick pan.
The cubes need to be browned on both sides. This takes only about one minute per side. Then they get transferred to a bowl so all the juices collect.
DON’T LOSE THE JUICES!!!!
Ahem. Sorry to yell. But don’t lose the juices, please.
You want to brown the beef in batches so you don’t have to crowd the meat. If you do it won’t brown as well and it’ll kind of steam the beef instead. Steamed beef…. mmmmmm.
This is the most annoying part of the cooking process because you have to turn each of these little cubes as quickly as possible. It’s a good wrist workout. Or something like that.
I just left my beef pan over the heat and added in some more canola oil after browning the beef.
Then I tossed in my onions and seasoned them with just a touch of salt and pepper.
Once the onions were softened and slightly browned, I popped the Udon noodles into some boiling, salted water.
Then I added the pepper-garlic-oil mixture to the onions and stirred it around constantly for about 30 seconds. I’m sorry that this mixture doesn’t look super appetizing. But it does produce delicious results. I promise.
Then in goes the lime-soy-fish sauce-brown sugar mixture. You’ll have to scrape the brown sugar out as it sinks to the bottom a bit.
This just gets stirred around for a couple minutes.
Toss in the beef right after that.
Then your white and light green parts of the green onions. Or scallions, if you prefer.
The last thing I added was the cooked Udon noodles. They only take 4 minutes to cook in their salted, boiling water. I transferred them right to the pan with the beef and added some of the pasta water in with them. This will add body to your sauce and will help thicken it a bit.
And I almost forgot!
Chopped peanuts. You can have these ready ahead of time too.
Now I have to tell you.
I am not a huge peanut fan.
I love peanut butter. I love Reeses. But peanuts… salted, roasted, honey-roasted, wasabi, whatever… they are just not my favorite. I’m sorry.
I think we all have something we don’t like that a lot of other people do like… and they are all thinking, “WHAT?!?!? How can you NOT like that?!?!?”
We just don’t.
I will try anything. I don’t like everything.
I actually don’t know if I would try ANYthing.
Lamb fries, for instance.
I don’t think so.
Anyhow. Chop some peanuts. The salted, roasted kind are best for this.
Then serve up your Udon noodles and beef. Garnish it with the dark green parts of your chopped scallions. Sprinkle on some peanuts.
And… magic will happen….
Mm. Mm. Mm. Mm. Mmmmmmmmmm.
(That’s my Norwegian heritage coming out).
Or… if you prefer… Bon Appétit!
Or simply…. ENJOY!
Here’s the printable recipe.