lips on fire…

…kimchi as a secret weapon.

Food Taster is one of the pickiest eaters I know, so when he begged for Kimchi Udon, I simply could not refuse. I was puzzled by such an unlikely request from the Crown Prince of macaroni & cheese, especially since he asked for the heat and voracity of authentic gochugaru peppers and spices. Kimchi Udon is a heavenly union of Korean fermented vegetables and thick Japanese wheat noodles – savory, spicy and so beautiful it became the hero photo for my blog. It is unforgivingly addictive in the OMG-this-is-so-hot-I’m-going-to-die-but-maybe-just-one-more-bite way.

Plus, there’s bacon.

Food Taster joined us for dinner and was put to work

Kimchi might be one of the more polarizing elements in Asian cooking – love it or hate it. I first tried kimchi after college at some of the many fabulous Korean restaurants in Fort Lee, NJ. The tables were always set with at least a dozen small bowls of pickles, condiments and preserved veggies with kimchi as the centerpiece. You could always smell it before you saw it, but the taste is at once piquant, umami and sour. If you can imagine sauerkraut with intense notes of ginger, garlic and hot red peppers you are halfway there.

the kimchi base

Rice may be the stereotypical currency of Japanese cuisine, but noodles of various widths & lengths, and made from different starches, are also magnificent and versatile staples. They are served warm in soups and stews, fried on a griddle or chilled with dipping sauce. This particular recipe calls for thick wheat udon, which I will not attempt to make, even with Stanley, my standing mixer. I use individual frozen packages from Japan – they are readily available and I’m only human. Udon are wonderfully hearty and give some much-needed balance to the kimchi, which can easily become overwhelming.

I’ve also cooked with curly ramen, buckwheat soba, fried yakisoba and delicate sōmen in dishes that range from wildly over-complicated to “just boil water.” Even when I’m bouncing from Japanese to Italian to American to Thai, it’s been suggested that I can still manage to serve noodles every night. Point taken…next week will be all rice, Mr. Smarty Pants.

Kimchi Udon

getting the band back together
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 4 packages frozen udon noodles
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs kimchi juice, from package
  • 1+ Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 4-5 strips of thick cut bacon, finely diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, green parts, finely sliced
  • 1 cup cabbage kimchi, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbs gochujang hot pepper paste
  • 1-3 tsp gochugaru chili flakes, to taste
  • fried eggs as optional toppings

Follow the directions on the udon packages to quickly boil, drain and set aside the noodles.

Combine soy sauce, kimchi juice, honey and sesame oil to make sauce and set aside.

Heat your wok to a vigorous medium-high and add the chopped bacon. You will want to stir fry slowly to crisp the little edges and render the fat.

Add the sliced scallions, saving about 2 Tbs for garnish. Stir fry for a minute and add kimchi, gochugaru and gochujang.

Stir fry this base (photo above) for about 2-3 minutes and add the udon. Using tongs and a spatula, toss the noodles as they incorporate for another minute.

Add the prepared sauce for a final turn around the wok and serve with fried eggs, chicken or as is.

One thought on “lips on fire…

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