Tender marinated beef, soft juicy onions and chewy udon noodles served in a rich and meaty dashi broth, this Beef Niku Udon is the ultimate comfort dish! I also include how to make your own dashi from scratch to make the ultimate delicious udon broth at home!
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What is Niku Udon?
Niku udon (肉うどん) is a rich and meaty noodle dish made with udon served in a hot dashi broth and topped with thinly sliced beef and onions.
The direct translation of niku udon is "meat udon" and while beef is most popular, some people use pork instead. In fact, the preferred meat used for this dish depends on the region, pork is more often used in Japan's Kanto (East) region, while beef is common in Kansai (West).
Using beef or pork bring out different qualities in the dish and I personally like them both. I would say that beef udon in particular is richer, more meaty and has a lightly more elegant taste!
- Flavourful beef niku udon recipe with tips and tricks
- Beefy, sweet and savoury soup that I love
- How to prepare udon noodles
Ingredients to make this beef niku udon
- Dashi (homemade if possible!)
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Light brown sugar
- Ginger paste
- White onion
- Beef fat
- Udon noodles
- Chopped spring onion
- Shichimi Togarashi (optional)
Let's look at a few key ingredients in a bit more detail!
One of the most important ingredients to achieve an umami-rich broth with authentic Japanese flavour is "dashi" soup stock. Because the soup/broth has a starring role in this dish, I recommend making your own dashi to really make the soup shine!
It might sound daunting if you're new to Japanese cooking, but making your own dashi is really simple and doesn't take that long! My favourite dashi ingredients for making udon soups are:
I soak the kombu and niboshi for 30 minutes, add the katsuobushi and heat it up. It only needs to be simmered for about 10 minutes and then it can be strained to remove the bits. I include how to make dashi in the recipe so see more detailed instructions below!
What kind of beef is used in niku udon?
It's not necessary to use expensive beef for this dish, but I do recommend thinly sliced, fatty cuts for the best texture and flavour. In Japan, we often use fatty end cuts. The beef fat dissolves into the broth and makes it richer and tastier! Thigh, loin or belly all work well.
If you can't buy it thinly sliced where you live, you can buy a block of beef instead and place it in the freezer until firm (not frozen) and then cut it thinly by yourself. Freeze your beef block for approximately 30 minutes per ½ lb (225g) of meat and make sure to use a sharp knife!
There are mainly four types of udon available to buy:
- Fresh (uncooked and chilled)
- Boiled (precooked and chilled)
Udon noodles are cooked by boiling them in water, the cooking times vary between types so you will need to time it accordingly.
I always recommend cooking the udon noodles in a separate pot and then washing them under boiling water to remove the excess starch.
It's also important not to overcook udon! Like pasta, they should be served "el dente" (firm to the bite) and I recommend cooking the udon last when making this dish. Basically, every other element of niku udon can be reheated, but if the udon is ruined, it can't be saved.
Tip: My favourite udon noodles are frozen "Sanuki udon", they're perfectly chewy and you can cook them in the microwave. So convenient!
Instructions on how to make beef niku udon
Here are my step by step instructions on how to make amazing beef niku udon from scratch, including homemade dashi! I also include some tips and tricks along the way. For ingredient quantities and simplified steps, see the recipe card at the bottom of the page!
Make the dashi
If you're using instant dashi or dashi bags then you can skip this step, but a good dashi is quite important for this dish so I want to show you how to make my favourite dashi here.
Start by soaking kombu in cold water for 30 minutes. I also use dried sardines (with the heads removed) but these are optional.
Marinate your beef (the next step) while your dashi ingredients are soaking so that they're ready at the same time!
After 30 minutes, place the pan on the stove and add the katsuobushi.
Heat the pan on medium/medium low and bring to almost boiling. Don't let it actually boil.
When it starts to gently simmer, turn off the heat and strain it through a sieve lined with kitchen paper.
To catch all the fine pieces of katsuobushi, line your sieve or strainer with kitchen paper. This will act as a filter and give you a beautiful clear broth!
The final result should be a beautiful clear golden dashi broth that looks like this:
Marinate the beef
To make sure the flavour of the beef really shines through, I like to marinate it before cooking. In my recipe I soak the beef in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, oyster sauce, sugar, ginger paste and salt.
Marinate the beef for at least 10 minutes, preferably 30 minutes. I recommend marinating it while the dashi ingredients are soaking!
For tender beef and even cooking, I recommend keeping the beef out on the counter for about 20-30 minutes while it marinates. (Don't leave it out for more than 1 hour.)
Salt the onions
Finely slice the onions and sprinkle them with salt. With your hands, rub the salt over the surface.
This step is to stop the onions from overpowering the dish. Rubbing them with salt not only tames the strong flavour of onion, but also draws out some of the moisture which will soften the texture and help them cook faster.
Cook the udon
Cook your udon noodles according to the time stated on the packaging. This varies greatly depending on whether the udon is chilled, dried or frozen.
You can boil your noodles at the same time as making the broth.
Once the udon are cooked, drain and wash with freshly boiled water to remove the excess starch. (This is to stop them from sticking together and also prevent starch getting into your broth.)
Make the broth
Pour your dashi into a pan and add soy sauce, mirin and light brown sugar.
Place it on the stove and bring it to a boil over a medium heat.
Boil for 2 minutes and then set aside. You can reheat it right before serving.
It might be tempting to leave the broth simmering while you prepare the rest of the dish, but this will cause the liquid to evaporate and the broth to become concentrated and too salty. Set it aside and reheat right before serving.
Fry the onions
When making niku udon, I prefer to sauté the onions and beef, then serve them on top of the udon at the end. First, we sauté the onions until soft and then, we add the marinated beef.
Heat a frying pan on medium and add oil or beef fat. I used beef fat to add more meaty flavour to the dish.
I fry the onions first so that I can soften them thoroughly without overcooking the beef.
Add the beef to the pan
Once the onions are softened, add the beef and marinade. Stir fry for a few minutes until the beef is cooked through.
Adding the marinade to the pan is an important step because flavour from the marinade will be absorbed into the onions and beef. Once cooked, I also pour any leftover marinade in the pan into the udon soup at the end, so it's necessary to burn off the alcohol in the mirin.
Using the leftover marinade in the broth makes it rich and meaty. This method also reduces waste and none of the flavour is lost along the way.
Once the beef is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and we're ready to dish up!
First, divide the udon noodles into serving bowls and pour the broth to fill about two thirds of the bowl.
Place the beef and onions on the top like this:
Pour the leftover marinade around the top of each bowl and garnish with chopped spring onions and a sprinkle of Japanese "shichimi" chilli pepper. (Optional)
Niku udon is best served immediately. Leftover broth can be stored in the fridge for up to one week or frozen for 1-2 months.
I hope you enjoy this rich and meaty niku udon! If you try the recipe, let us know how it goes in the comments below!Print
Step by step recipe
Ramen and udon are types of noodles used in Japanese cuisine. Ramen noodles are thin, springy and usually served in rich, salty ramen soups. On the other hand, udon are thick and chewy, usually served in a light and delicate dashi broths. (Although there are exceptions such as curry udon or miso udon.)
Udon noodles are made with wheat flour, water and salt.
Niku udon is a hot, soupy dish made with udon noodles and topped with thinly sliced, seasoned beef or pork.