No one can resist a chubby udon noodle, and this recipe is no different. I've already shared my love for frozen udon bricks, which I always have at the ready in the freezer. You're never far from a quick meal when these pre-cooked noodles are around, as they need less than a minute in a hot water bath before being resuscitated to chewy goodness.
This recipe for spicy udon noodles is how I like to off-road family-favorite carbonara (which I acknowledge this dish certainly is not!) when I'm in the mood for something with a kick. The dish takes inspiration from the Korean pantry, Japanese-style wafu pasta, and the saucy technique from beloved Roman carbonara. As with all stir-fry recipes, the key to success here is to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go as it all comes together very quickly.
First, bacon chunks, chopped scallions, and garlic get sautéed before meeting gochujang and udon noodles. Gochujang is in a class of its own in terms of flavor. While it lends spice and heat, there's also an inherent smokiness, slight sweetness, and umami that is highly addictive. Outside of Korean cuisine, I like to experiment with gochujang in recipes that might call for tomato paste to help give a nuanced layer of heat in the background. By all means, add a bit more in this recipe if you prefer it more spicy.
The whole thing gets even better after being combined with eggs and Parmesan, helping to mute some of the heat and give the noodles a silky richness. The heat from the noodles will be just enough to emulsify the cheese and egg yolk mixture, creating a beautiful, thick sauce that you can loosen a bit with the addition of the udon cooking water.
These chubby, silky noodles are just the ticket for zapping you out of your weeknight dinner doldrums.
Looking for more customizable noodle recipes for an easy weeknight meal? Check out this episode of Play Me a Recipe, where Peter J. Kim makes instant ramen carbonara.
Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Five Two Essential Knives
- Food52 x Rosti Mixing Bowl
- Ekobo Bamboo Colander
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 10 minutes
- Serves 2
slices of thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1/4-inch strips or lardons
to 4 scallions, thinly sliced (reserve 1 tablespoon scallion greens for garnish)
to 3 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
egg yolks, at room temperature
grated Parmesan cheese
blocks frozen udon noodles
reserved udon cooking water (you will not be using this all)
toasted sesame oil
kosher salt (optional) and coarsely ground black pepper (not optional), plus more to taste
- Bring a medium pot filled with water to boil for the udon.
- In a skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add the bacon, scallions, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Let the bacon fat render slowly and saute all until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Monitor the heat and lower it if it browns too quickly.
- In the meantime, in a medium or large mixing bowl, add the egg yolks. Add the cheese, pinch of salt and coarsely ground pepper (at least 8 to 10 turns). It will look like a paste at this point, but the udon cooking water will loosen it up shortly. Set aside.
- Lower the skillet’s heat to low. Add the soy sauce and gochujang and "fry" in the bacon's oil. Coat the bacon mixture with the gochujang.
- Cook udon noodles according to package instructions (usually 45 to 60 seconds). They are already cooked, so you are just warming them through and gently releasing them from their caked state with tongs or chopsticks. It’s important not to overcook them. Reserve about ½ cup of udon cooking water. Drain in a colander and add the udon noodles to the pan (alternately, you can also use a spider strainer to lift up and drain the udon noodles from the pot and into the skillet—it’s okay to have a bit of the residual water clinging on). Toss until well-combined and udon noodles are coated in the gochujang-bacon sauce. Turn off the heat.
- To the mixing bowl with the egg-cheese mixture, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved udon cooking water and mix to form a slightly looser paste. Add the udon noodles and toss until well- combined (you can also add the egg-cheese mixture to the pan that’s off the heat, being careful not to curdle or scramble the eggs). Drizzle in a bit of sesame oil. Season with salt (optional) and pepper (not optional), to your taste. Give it another toss before plating. Top with reserved scallion greens and more coarsely ground pepper, if you’d like. Serve immediately.