Shrimp Yaki Udon

by Hannah

When I lived in Berlin there was this stir fry place near my office that I was completely obsessed with. I spent a good amount of money there over the months and the shrimp yaki udon was one of my favorite stir fries. While I had some delicious noodle dishes in Japan, it’s this Berlin version that really sticks with me. I had a real hankering for it the other day so I decided I’d try to recreate it and I was not disappointed.

What is Shrimp Yaki Udon?

Yaki just means a stir fry. A literal translation is more like ‘heat’ or ‘burn by fire,’ but in English we would just use the phrase stir fry. You may have heard of yaki soba, which is a bit more common and is essentially the same dish but with soba noodles instead of udon noodles.

An udon noodle is made from wheat flour and is thick and chewy. Udon noodles also come in the round version (like this) as well as a flat version. For some reason, I had a heck of a time trying to find the traditional thick, round version, so I made this recipe with the flat udon noodle. However, you could make it with both and it would be delicious either way.

A soba noodle, on the other hand, is made from buckwheat flour and is therefore a little grainier in texture. It’s also thinner than an udon noodle so you don’t get as much chewiness.

The Perfect Sauce

What makes this sauce so dark, rich and delicious is dark soy sauce. You could use regular soy sauce in a pinch, but your dish won’t be as dark in color and you will need to add a little more salt to your dish. Dark soy sauce is thicker and is also less salty then regular soy sauce. If you choose to use regular soy, start with 1/8 teaspoon of salt and taste and adjust.

Sauce for shrimp yaki udon is very dark in color

What makes this sauce a little bit sweet (and delicious) is the addition of brown sugar. There isn’t too much added since the sauce also contains oyster sauce, which contains a little bit of sugar as well.

Shrimp Yaki Udon Ingredients

  • Shrimp: The shrimp give a bit more substance to this dish. However, if you were vegetarian you could easily omit it and it would still be delicious.
  • Veggies: This stir fry includes carrot, bell pepper, onion and bok choy. This is the kind of dish that you could use whatever you had on hand and it would be delicious.
  • Dark Soy: This is important for the dark color of the dish.
  • Mirin: Mirin is a type of  rice wine similar to sake, but lower in alcohol content and it’s often used in Asian cooking.
  • Oyster Sauce: This slightly sweet and slightly salty sauce gives the overall sauce for this dish body. Despite its name, this sauce doesn’t taste fishy at all.
  • Brown Sugar: This makes the sauce the right amount of sweet.
  • Rice Vinegar: The vinegar helps bring out all the amazing flavors in this dish.
  • Sesame Oil: Why use regular oil when you can get that delicious sesame taste with your dish.

How to Make Shrimp Yaki Udon

Making this stir fry is actually pretty simple and doesn’t take much time at all. It’s also the kind of dish that’s really easy to scale up so it would be perfect for a crowd or a family. First, start boiling your water for the noodles. They’ll only take a few minutes, but bringing the water up to a boil first will make things go quicker.

Then, cook the shrimp for a few minutes on each side until done, then set aside. You’ll know they’re done when the shrimp turn pink in color.

Shrimp cooked and seasoned and in a pan for shrimp yaki udon

While the shrimp is cooking I like to add all the sauce ingredients to a bowl and mix so its ready to add later. Then get started on chopping the vegetables and garlic. You’ll sauté the vegetables for about 5-8 minutes until they’re cooked down and soft. It won’t take long since the julienned vegetables are so small.

While your vegetables are sautéing, now is the perfect time to cook your noodles, following the directions on the packet.

I like to add the sauce to the vegetables and cook for about 2-3 minutes to make sure the sugar dissolves and the sauce has the chance to thicken. Finally, add your noodles and shrimp and mix well to coat evenly in the sauce.

shrimp yaki udon in a bowl, ready to eat

Storage and Reheating

Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to four days in the fridge. To reheat, you can put in the microwave for a few minutes or heat it up on medium heat on the stove, covered, for around 5 minutes.

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Top down view of shrimp yaki udon

Shrimp Yaki Udon

This Japanese stir fry is quick and delicious.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dinner
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Stir Fry

  • 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 9.5 oz udon noodles
  • 1 small carrot, julienned
  • 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/4 cup bok coy, about 1-2 stalks
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, plus a pinch for the shrimp

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 3 tsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar

Instructions

  • Remove the tails from the shrimp, then season with a pinch of salt and 5 cracks of pepper. Add 1 tbsp of the sesame oil and then cook the shrimp on medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side until pink and cooked through. Then set aside. While the shrimp is cooking, you can combine the ingredients for the sauce, mix and set aside.
  • Boil the water for your udon noodles, but don't add the noodles until your vegetables are sautéing.
  • Chop all the vegetables and sauté for 5-8 minutes until soft together with the remaining 1 tbsp of sesame oil and garlic. During this time you can boil the udon noodles according to the package.
  • Add the sauce to the vegetables and simmer for 2-3 minutes to dissolve the sugar and give it a chance to thicken. Then add the noodles and shrimp back into the pan and mix until everything is evenly coated.

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