Kitchn Love Letters

The Frozen Noodles That Make My Work-from-Home Lunches So Much Better

published Sep 20, 2021
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Credit: Meleyna Nomura

When you think of convenience noodles, your mind might immediately land on instant ramen. And while I certainly don’t turn my nose up at that freeze-dried block of salty goodness, there’s no reason to limit myself. The noodle world is a big one!

Which brings me to one of my favorites: Shirakiku Sanukiya Udon. A thick, wheat-based noodle, udon is chewy, slippery, and slurp-able. Udon noodles are often found in well-stocked supermarkets either vacuum-packed fresh or dried, but the frozen udon noodles are my very favorite. Their bouncy texture is superior to the vacuum-packed ones, which can be doughy, or the dried version, which aren’t nearly as thick and chewy. I stock up on five-pack packages at my Asian market for meals in a flash. Next time you’re at your local Asian grocery store, take a peek in the freezer and pick up a pack. (You can also buy them online!) Feeling inspired? Let’s take a deeper look!

Buy: Shirakiku Sanukiya Udon, $6.39 for five packages at Weee!

Frozen udon noodles are already fully cooked. All you have to do is heat them through and they’re ready to eat. You can do this easily by boiling for a minute or two (check the instructions for your specific brand), breaking the noodle cake up with chopsticks to loosen things up. You can do this directly in some broth, adding vegetables and any protein on hand for a brothy bowl of goodness. It’s different but familiar, and nearly as easy as dumping a dried packet of seasoning into boiling water.

Credit: Meleyna Nomura

My favorite method is microwaving, a trick I picked up from Lisa at Okonomi Kitchen. It’s become my work-from-home lunch of choice. I place a frozen block of noodles in a shallow pasta bowl with some thinly sliced cabbage and a splash of water; cover with a plate, and microwave on high for two minutes; uncover, add a pat of butter and a couple of teaspoons of gochujang; cover again and microwave for another minute; uncover and tip over a little bit of soy sauce and a tiny bit of sesame oil; mix it up well with chopsticks. Then I raid the fridge and go wild with toppings: kimchi, avocado, scallions, furikake, extra sesame seeds, togarashi pepper, maybe a crispy fried egg if I’m feeling especially lush — whatever leftover proteins or vegetables are hanging around. It’s just 15 minutes from start to a full belly.

They’re also so good stir-fried, and what I reach for at dinnertime when I’ve forgetten to put on the rice cooker. The noodles can be prepared first in boiling water and added to the stir-fry, but I skip the extra step and extra pot. Instead, I stir-fry my proteins in a large skillet or wok, then add my vegetables and sauce. I add a couple of blocks of frozen udon noodles on top of the stir fry ingredients, then pour in 1/4 cup of water, cover, and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. After they’ve steamed through, I remove the lid and break up the noodles with chopsticks or tongs. I finish by tossing the noodles with the other ingredients over medium-high heat, coating everything in sauce. My kids absolutely adore these!

What’s your quick lunchtime shortcut? Tell us in the comments below.