Yucky…and then Yaki Udon


Note to self: if it smells funny, just throw it out. Resist the urge to toss it into the wok with all those fresh ingredients. Even if fresh straw mushrooms are expensive and a favorite treat and you don’t know when you’ll get a chance to buy them again. And even if they are mixed in with bamboo shoot strips and baby corns which you don’t believe ever go bad. Even if you think they’re not that old. Even if you tell yourself that maybe they always have a slightly funky smell. Even if you suppose cooking will kill most microorganisms. Even if you are self-righteously countering the American wasteful and overcautious habit of throwing away plenty of still-good food. Even if a little mold or bacteria won’t kill you, probably. Just don’t do it.

What’s that old saying? One handful of smelly mushrooms spoils the stir-fry? Or, makes a huge mound of perfectly seasoned veggies and tofu inedible? Something like that. Net result: one sad cook sticking her fingers in the bowl to fish out as much of the scalding hot broccoli, tofu, bean sprouts, black mushrooms, even slippery onions and strips of limp bok choi as possible to eat atop her precious udon, which she had fortunately stir fried separately from the veggies. Only a slight taste of plecch, she decided, and hopefully only a small chance of being dangerous to eat. Before dumping the rest of the depressing vat into the garbage. A big kitchsplosion with no joy.

So all the photos here represent a take-two on this recipe and are the happy result of a second trip to the Asian supermarket to re-buy the fat squishy udon noodles and another batch of beautiful bok choi from the farmer’s market. The only sad part is that you can’t see the beautiful huge noodles beneath the veggies, which I served piled  on top without pulling the noodles through. Doh! Well, I can tell you they are down there in their voluptuously fat, squishy, satisfying glory. Completely worth the trip, agreed our friends. (Yes, that is THE famous actor Brenny Rabine about to enjoy my Yaki Udon.)

Veggie Yaki Udon

(for four people)

  • Peanut oil for frying
  • 2 16-oz packages of big, fat fresh udon noodles
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 4 green onions, separate whites and greens. Save a few greens slices for garnish.
  • 2 oz sliced carrots
  • 4 oz bok choi, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 10-15 rehydrated black mushrooms (save liquid)
  • a pinch of rehydrated wakame flakes (save liquid)
  • tofu strips
  • a few handfuls fresh mung bean sprouts
  • enoki mushrooms (optional–say you were in the Asian grocery store and couldn’t resist them because they are tall, skinny, weird looking things–pictured below next to the peanut jar which has absolutely nothing to do with this recipe)


  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 TBS mirin
  • 2 TBS sake
  • 1 TBS sugar or 2 TBS hoisin
  • 1 TBS chili garlic sauce (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)


  1. Mix sauce in a small bowl, adding 1 TBS each of the mushroom water and wakame water
  2. Put fresh udon noodles in boiling water for 1 minute or less–just until the noodles separate and are hot (jostle them to loosen)
  3. Heat peanut oil in a frying pan and cook onions and whites of the green onions for 2 minutes
  4. Add garlic, ginger, and carrots and cook for an additional 2 minutes
  5. Add bok choi,  green onion tops, black mushrooms, wakame flakes, bean sprouts and tofu and cook for 2 more minutes
  6. Add salt and pepper
  7. Add less than ½ the sauce mixture and stir to combine. Remove mixture to a bowl
  8. Add additional peanut oil, udon noodles and remaining sauce mixture and stir until the noodles are well coated
  9. Serve the veggies over the noodles (don’t forget to pull noodles up through the veggies). Garnish with gomasio and green onion.

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