Yaki Udon dates back to post-war Japan when a noodle shop in northern Kyushu turned the Japanese staple into a hearty stir-fry to stretch a scarce supply of meat and vegetables. While it was initially conceived as a variation of yakisoba, it's become a ubiquitous part of the Japanese street food landscape, and you'll find these stir-fried udon noodles in dozens of variations.
In this version, I've created a mashup of broccoli beef and yaki udon for a quick weekday meal that's as satisfying as it is delicious. With thin slices of steak marinated in ginger and garlic stir-fried with fresh broccoli florets, the stir-fry is pulled together with thick, chewy strands of udon noodles and a savory sweet glaze that's redolent of black pepper.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Thinly slicing the beef against the grain and marinating it with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger tenderizes the meat.
- Using oyster sauce to glaze the udon noodles creates the perfect balance of savory and sweet, which not only seasons this beef yaki udon recipe, it also infuses it with loads of umami.
- The extra liquid added to the sauce steams the broccoli as it evaporates, delivering broccoli that's lightly browned and yet still vibrant green and fresh.
- Beef - I like using a tender steak such as sirloin, ribeye, or tenderloin. The key is to slice it thinly against the grain, which physically tenderizes the meat, absorbs the marinade well, and cooks through quickly. Although beef is the primary protein in this version of yaki udon, feel free to substitute cleaned shrimp, or thinly sliced chicken, lamb, or pork. You could also use some slices up atsuage (fried firm tofu) if you wanted to make this vegetarian or vegan.
- Broccoli - Broccoli beef was one of my favorite Chinese take-out dishes as a kid, and it provides a vibrant color and textural contrast to this beef udon stir-fry. If broccoli isn't your thing, use other stir-fry-friendly vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, onion, cabbage, or snap peas.
- Udon - These thick noodles have a chewy texture, making them the perfect foil to absorb the flavors of the sauce without getting soggy. I like using frozen pre-cooked udon, which comes in single-serving blocks. You'll need to defrost them first, but they're super convenient and have a texture similar to fresh udon noodles.
- Soy sauce - I like using Japanese dark soy sauce in the marinade because it seasons the beef while infusing loads of umami. If you need a gluten-free alternative, consider using tamari, or for a soy-free alternative, coconut aminos would work as well.
- Sake - Sake, a brewed Japanese rice wine, is used in both the marinade and the yaki udon sauce. Although sake is an alcoholic beverage, it contains a ton of amino acids, which contributes umami to the dish, while the alcohol content will burn off due to the high temperatures involved.
- Garlic and ginger - These two aromatics lend a robust flavor profile to the beef, and I prefer adding them to the marinade than adding them straight to the pan as the other ingredients keep them from burning. Ginger also contains a proteolytic enzyme called zingibain, which tenderizes the beef.
- Oyster sauce - This is the primary seasoning for the yaki udon sauce, and it has the perfect balance of savory and sweet tastes. Use a vegetarian "oyster" sauce made from mushrooms for a shellfish-free alternative.
- Black pepper - I like the subtle heat and citrusy evergreen flavor that black pepper adds to this stir-fry, but you can also use your favorite chili paste, such as sambal oelek or doubanjiang, to bring the heat.
How to Make Beef Yaki Udon
Like most stir-fries, this one goes very quickly, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and near the pan so you can toss them in quickly.
To marinate the beef, add the thinly sliced meat to a bowl, along with the soy sauce, sake, garlic, and ginger. Stir it together to distribute the ingredients evenly. Using soy sauce in the marinade not only flavors the beef but also acts as a brine helping the meat retain moisture as it's cooked.
While the beef absorbs those flavors, you can make the yaki udon sauce by whisking the oyster sauce, sake, and black pepper together. This is also a good time to cut up the broccoli florets and defrost or cook and drain your udon noodles.
Preheat a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil and broccoli. The key here is to ensure the broccoli florets are coated in oil, allowing them to cook through evenly. Add the marinated beef to the pan and quickly separate the slices so they don't clump up.
When the beef is mostly cooked through, add the cooked udon noodles and the yaki udon sauce to the pan. Stir-fry the noodles along with the beef and broccoli. Once there is no sauce pooling at the bottom of the pan, continue stir-frying for a moment longer to caramelize the glaze around the noodles.
Serve your beef yaki udon immediately and garnish with chopped green onions or sesame seeds.
Serve it With
In Japan, Yaki-udon is a street food or quick lunch, so it's not usually served with other dishes, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying this as part of a large meal. To complement the rich flavors of the Beef Yaki Udon, consider serving a light and refreshing salad such as Sunomono. This tangy cucumber salad, creates a marvelous counterpoint to the savory yaki udon. My crispy mushroom and vegetable tempura is another great option that provides another layer of texture and taste meal. Finally, for dessert, a light and refreshing Matcha Ice Cream or some juicy, sweet fresh fruits like melons or oranges would provide the perfect, palate-cleansing finale to this easy feast.
- 200 grams thinly sliced beef
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sake
- 7 grams garlic (grated)
- 7 grams ginger (grated)
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons sake
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For yaki udon
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 100 grams broccoli (cut into small florets)
- 400 grams cooked udon noodles
- Marinate 200 grams thinly sliced beef with 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sake, 7 grams garlic, and 7 grams ginger.
- Make the sauce by whisking together 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons sake, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
- Preheat a frying pan over medium-high heat, and then add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 100 grams broccoli. Stir-fry until the florets are coated with oil.
- Add the beef and stir-fry until the meat is mostly cooked through.
- Add 400 grams cooked udon noodles, along with the sauce, and stir-fry until the noodles are reheated, and no sauce remains in the pan.
- Plate and serve immediately.