Curried Udon Noodle Stir-Fry
This saucy noodle dish is inspired by the slightly sweet, mellow curries that are hugely popular in Japan for lunch and dinner, or so we hear. A simple roux-based curry sauce is prepared first, then stirred into udon, bits of sautéed seitan, and crips veggies. Experiment - change the vegetables, use tofu in place of seitan, try different brands of curry powder - the variations are endless.
1/2 pound fresh udon noodles or dried udon noodles
Udon noodle stir-fry:
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 hot red chile pepper, sliced very thinly (optional)
2 seitan cutlets, panfried and sliced into thin strips
1/2 pound broccoli florets, sliced into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)
Prepare the udon first: Cook the udon according to the package directions, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water.
In the meantime, prepare the curry roux sauce:
Combine the flour and 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture browns to the color of rich caramel and smells toasty, about 10 minutes or less. Stir in curry powder and garam masala, and cook for another minute while stirring constantly. Switch to using a wire whisk, then pour in the vegetable broth in a steady stream. Whisk in the sugar and cook the roux, stirring constantly, until a thick sauce forms, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To prepare the stir-fry:
Heat the 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large (at least 11-inch) nonstick skillet or a wok and cook the sliced onion for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the ginger, red bell pepper, hot chile, and seitan, and stir-fry for another 5 minutes, until the pepper starts to soften. Add the broccoli and stir-fry for 4 to 5 minutes, until it turns bright green.
Return to the udon noodles - if they're sticking together, rinse briefly in warm water and drain. Add the udon to the stir-fried vegetables, sprinkle with soy sauce, and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. It may help to use two large spatulas or extra-large chopsticks (the ones that come with some wok kits) while doing this.
Whisk 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth into the curry roux sauce in the saucepan. Pour the sauce over the udon stir-fry and stir to coat everything completely with the sauce. Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sauce is simmering and the noodles are warm. Remove from the heat and serve.
(Image: Emma Christensen)