Kimchi, the fermented Korean staple, is a fiery and pungent addition to any dish. When paired with rich and savory pork in these kimchi noodles, it creates a flavor explosion that's both bold and comforting. With thick, chewy noodles in a spicy umami-packed broth, these soul-satisfying spicy udon noodles are a testament to the versatility of kimchi, proving that it can be more than just a side dish but the star of a meal.
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Why This Recipe Works?
- Separating the kimchi from its juices by squeezing it allows you to saute it. This gives the soup a ton more flavor than just boiling them together.
- Marinating the pork with garlic, ginger, and soy sauce before stir-frying ensures you get some nice browning on the outside of the pork, building another layer of flavor.
- Reheating pre-cooked udon noodles in the soup infuses them with loads of kimchi flavor.
- Kimchi - Kimchi is the headline ingredient in these spicy udon noodles, so it should be no surprise that your kimchi's quality will significantly impact your soup's flavor. I recommend using homemade kimchi or store-bought ones from a good Korean brand. As kimchi ages, it undergoes lacto-fermentation, which makes it increasingly sour. The tanginess mature kimchi adds is delicious, but if you like your soup to be milder, you can also use fresh kimchi. If you just bought your kimchi and want to give your soup a tangy taste, you can add a splash of rice vinegar at the end. Whatever kimchi you choose, make sure you have a lot of juice, as this forms the basis for the spicy noodle broth.
- Pork - While kimchi provides the bulk of the flavor in this dish, pork provides some meaty richness and body for the soup. I like using thinly sliced pork belly because of the amount of fat it contains, but other cuts of pork with a good amount of fat will work. Just ensure it is sliced very thinly, so it can get tender during the short cooking time. Boneless skin-on chicken thighs will also work as an alternative, and you can cut these into bigger bite-sized chunks.
- Aromatics - I use a combination of grated garlic and ginger to marinate the pork before stir-frying it. This allows the aromatics to brown along with the meat juices, creating another layer of flavor.
- Soy Sauce - Soy sauce adds umami to the broth, but marinating the pork with it before stir-frying the meat, allows us to caramelize the soy sauce, creating a wonderful toasty flavor in the process.
- Gochujang - Gochujang is a Korean chili paste made by fermenting glutinous rice with malted barley, fermented soybean powder, and gochugaru. It usually comes in tubs or tubes and can be found in Asian supermarkets or even the ethnic aisle of many supermarkets in the US. It does add a bit of heat, but its primary purpose in this recipe is to add some sweetness and umami to the soup. No single ingredient would make a 1:1 substitute, but you could combine a mixture of miso, mirin, and gochugaru to make a reasonable substitute.
- Gochugaru - Although it has a similar sounding name to gochujang, gochugaru literally means "chili powder," and it's made by milling dried Korean chilies into a powder. Because the chili peppers are relatively mild, you can add a lot of gochugaru without making the soup inedibly spicy. This is important because adding chili powder is more about adding flavor than adding heat.
- Garlic Chives - Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) are Asian vegetables with flat leaves that look like long blades of grass. The texture of the leaves is similar to scallion greens, but their taste is closer to garlic. These add a splash of color to the kimchi noodles and a fresh garlic flavor at the end. If you can't find them, scallions (a.k.a. green onions) will work.
- Other Vegetables - Kimchi already contains a variety of vegetables, so I don't usually add any more, but you could add odds and ends from your fridge, like carrots or shiitake mushrooms, if you'd like.
- Udon - You could use any noodle here, but I like using udon because of its thick, chewy texture and the fact that it doesn't go soggy as quickly as thinner egg noodles or ramen noodles. If you have the time, make fresh udon noodles and boil them separately for 2 minutes less than the specified time. Then, drain and rinse the excess starch off of them before using them in this recipe. If you want to make this more quickly, frozen pre-cooked udon noodles are almost as good as fresh ones, requiring much less effort. I don't recommend using dried udon, as it tends to be much thinner and will go soggy faster. Alternatively, you could also use two bricks of instant noodles and cook them in in the soup.
- Eggs - This is an optional topping to add a bit more protein. I used soft-boiled eggs because that's what I had on hand, but a Sunny Side up or Hot Spring Egg would also make for a fantastic topping.
How to Make Pork and Kimchi Noodle Soup
The first thing you want to do is cut up the slices of pork belly into bite-sized pieces. The pork needs to be sliced thinly to get tender in the short time it has to cook. If you're using chicken, you can cut it into bigger chunks. Next, marinate the meat with the grated garlic, ginger, and soy sauce and set this aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
For the kimchi, you need to separate the kimchi from its juices to get it to brown. The best way to do this is to squeeze the juices out of the kimchi with your hands. Just be careful; kimchi tends to squirt, and the juices will stain.
You don't need to add oil to the pan if you're using pork belly, but if you have a leaner cut of meat, add a splash of oil to the pan. Add the squeezed kimchi and marinated pork to a non-stick pan over medium heat and spread them out into an even layer. Fry the pork and kimchi undisturbed until the pork starts to release some fat and the kimchi starts to brown. This will take a minute or two.
Now you can stir-fry the pork and kimchi until it all starts to brown around the edges. This will take another minute or two.
Pour the water and kimchi juice into the pan with the gochujang, bring the mixture up to a simmer, and cook for one minute. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning and spiciness with salt and gochugaru.
For pre-cooked frozen udon noodles, add the two portions to the kimchi soup along with the garlic chives and let the noodles reheat for two to three minutes, covered with a lid. Once the noodles are reheated, remove the lid and stir everything together.
If you are using fresh or dried udon noodles, you'll want to cook them for 2 minutes less than the package directions in a separate pot of water and then drain and rinse them in cold water. Next, add the drained noodles and garlic chives to the kimchi soup and boil them (without a lid) until the noodles reach your desired doneness.
To serve your spicy udon noodles, divide the noodles between two bowls and then top them with the kimchi, pork, and soup. Next, slice the boiled eggs in half and then top each bowl with two halves.
Serve it With
These kimchi noodles are perfect for a quick weekday lunch, but if you want to turn this into a more elaborate dinner, this will go great with my Spicy Wontons in Chili Oil and a side of my Cucumber Kimchi as well as my Spicy Edamame.
Other Spicy Noodle Recipes
- Spicy Cold Sesame Noodles
- Curry Udon
- Tantanmen (Soupless)
- Spicy Tantanmen
- Kimchi Pork Belly Spaghetti
- 7 grams garlic (1 large cloves, grated)
- 7 grams fresh ginger (grated)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 150 grams pork belly (sliced thinly)
- 250 grams kimchi (include the juices)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chili powder)
- ¼ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 70 grams garlic chives (or scallions)
- 2 portions udon noodles
- 2 eggs (soft boiled egg)
- Cut the thinly sliced 150 grams pork belly into bite-sized pieces and mix it with the grated 7 grams garlic and 7 grams fresh ginger, along with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and let it marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Use your hands to squeeze out as much of the juices from 250 grams kimchi as possible into a bowl and set this aside. You can add the squeezed kimchi into the bowl with the pork belly if you'd like.
- Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the marinated pork belly and squeezed kimchi, and spread everything out into an even layer. Let this mixture fry undisturbed until the pork belly starts to render out some fat and the kimchi starts to brown (about 1-2 minutes). If you are using a leaner cut of meat, you will need to add oil to the pan.
- Stir-fry the mixture until the pork is cooked and everything begins to brown around the edges (another 1-2 minutes).
- Add 2 cups water, kimchi juice, and 1 tablespoon gochujang and stir everything together. Let this simmer for a minute to allow the flavors to meld. Taste soup for salt and spice and adjust with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon gochugaru to taste.
- If you are using 2 portions udon noodles that are pre-cooked and frozen, add them to the kimchi soup along with 70 grams garlic chives and cover the pot with a lid. Let this simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the udon is warmed up. If you are using fresh udon noodles, you'll want to pre-boil them for 2 minutes less than the package directions and then drain and rinse them in cold water before adding them to the kimchi soup.
- When the noodles are heated through, remove the lid and stir everything together. Divide the noodles between two bowls, top with the kimchi and pork, then ladle on the soup. Garnish each bowl with a 2 eggs soft-boiled.