Nabeyaki udon is a true bowl of comfort during the colder months. Thick udon noodles served in a delicious dashi broth topped with juicy chicken thigh, tempura shrimp and a variety of vegetables, what more could you want?
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Sudachi Recipes is part of the amazon associates programme and earns a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See disclaimer for more info.
What is Nabeyaki Udon?
Nabeyaki udon (鍋焼うどん) or "nabeyaki" for short, is not your average udon dish. While most udon soup dishes are served in a bowl and topped with a few simple ingredients, nabeyaki udon is cooked with a variety of meat and vegetables in a "donabe" (土鍋) earthenware pot.
Because of all of the different ingredients, nabeyaki udon is very filling and nutritious, it's especially comforting in winter!
Although "yaki" is the Japanese word for fry/grill, it is completely different from "yaki udon" which is a kind of noodle stir fry. Nabeyaki udon falls under the category of hotpot dishes.
History of nabeyaki udon
The first record of nabeyaki udon goes all the way back to 1865 when it was mentioned in a play being performed in Osaka three years before the Meiji Restoration.
In the play, the dialogue went like this; "Until recently, I was selling pea pods but the recent popularity of nabeyaki udon noodles has pushed me away, and I changed my business to nabeyaki udon".
During this time, nabeyaki udon was a popular dish in Osaka and was often sold at night by street vendors. However, it was not until almost 10 years later (around 1873) that the dish eventually travelled across Japan and started to gain popularity in Tokyo.
Why is it called "yaki"?
As I mentioned before, the word "yaki" means to grill or fry. Some of you might be wondering why does this dish have "yaki" in the name, despite being a soupy hotpot dish.
The origin of the name "nabeyaki" is related to the Kamigata dialect, which was used mainly in Kyoto and Osaka. Nabeyaki udon was born in Osaka in late 19th century and in the old days, pots were hung on the hearth over an open fire to boil and cook the food.
This was also called "yaki" or "burning". So in their dialect, by putting the pot on the fire, you are "burning (yaki-ing)" the pot.
It's quite interesting to explore the origin of Japanese dishes and language sometimes, right?
Ingredients for nabeyaki udon
While there's no set rule for what to put in nabeyaki udon, particular ingredients tend to be preferred. Here I will list the common ingredients to use in nabeyaki udon.
People use all sorts of meat in nabeyaki udon! My recipe here uses chicken thigh, but a lot of people like using beef or even pork!
If you want to use fish instead, I think the best option to use is salmon fillet!
The look of nabeyaki udon is not complete without this iconic mushroom! It looks especially gorgeous when used whole and not sliced.
To prepare, remove the stems and make a cross-shaped cut on the surface, then cook them directly in the broth. Simmering shiitake mushrooms in broth helps to release the essence and increases the taste and flavour of the dish as a whole.
The light flavour of spinach goes well with the broth in nabeyaki udon and adds a splash of colour. Boil the spinach, soak it in water, cut it into bite-sized pieces and add it after the other ingredients are cooked.
If you overcook the spinach, it will lose its texture, so it is best to add it towards the end just before serving.
Shrimp tempura adds amazing flavour to the broth! The batter absorbs the broth and the oil from the tempura seeps into the soup, giving it a rich taste.
If the tempura is freshly fried and placed on top just before eating, the soup will be lighter, and if it is left to soak in the soup for a while, it will be softer.
Check out my shrimp tempura recipe if it's something you'd like to add!
You can also substitute shrimp tempura with vegetable tempura or tofu tempura if you prefer.
When I use spring onions in nabeyaki udon, I slice them diagonally and cook them in the soup. Alternatively, you can finely chop them and add them as a topping.
If you use fresh spring onions as a topping, the spiciness and crunchiness of the spring onions will accentuate the taste and texture.
Not only the taste and texture, but this pink fish cake is also important for the look!
Nabeyaki udon in restaurants are most likely have this on top.
If you Kamaboko is not accessible then it's okay to leave it out.
Japanese "Fu" (wheat protein)
Fu is an ingredient made from wheat protein / baked gluten. It looks a lot like dry bread or croutons, but is actually more like tofu and packed with protein.
It's hard to find fu outside of Japan but they're often added to soupy dishes in place of tofu. The can be colourful and come in interesting shapes so it adds decoration to the dish too!
Different shapes of fu have different names. The fu I used is called "temari-fu" and is named after the colourful and beautifully crafted Japanese temari balls.
Fu is not essential for the recipe so feel free to leave it out or swap it for tofu.Print
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 2 portions
How to make delicious Nabeyaki Udon (鍋焼きうどん) with chicken, shrimp tempura and vegetables. (Serves 2)
- 500ml dashi (see homemade dashi recipe)
- 2 ½ tbsp (37.5ml) soy sauce
- 1 tbsp (15ml) mirin
- ¼ tsp salt
- 100-150g skin-on chicken thigh cut into bitesize pieces
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- Drizzle of oil
- 50g spinach
- A bowl of ice cold water
- 2 portions udon noodles
- 2 shiitake mushrooms stems trimmed
- 50 shimeji mushrooms
- 20g spring onion diagonally sliced
- 2 eggs
- 2 tempura shrimp
- 6 slices kamaboko (optional)
- Fu (optional)
- Spring onion (green part) finely sliced to garnish
- Heat a frying pan on medium and add a drizzle of oil.
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a pinch of salt and pepper and then place them in the pan with the skin side down.
- Once the skin is crispy, turn the chicken over and fry until cooked through.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Take your spinach and hold it at the leaves. Submerge the stalks into the boiling water and hold it there for 30 seconds. (Hold it with tongs to prevent burns.)
- After 30 seconds have passed, submerge the rest of the spinach in the boiling water and continue to boil for another 30 seconds.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the spinach immediately into the bowl of ice cold water.
- Take the spinach out of the water and squeeze the water out as much as you can. Cut into 4-5cm (approx 2 inch) long pieces and set aside.
- Boil your udon noodles for 3-4 minutes less than the time stated on the packaging.
- Pour the noodles into a colander to drain the water and rinse to remove any excess starch. Set aside.
- Take your donabe (or a large pot) and add 500ml dashi, 2 ½ tbsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp mirin. Bring to a boil and allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes to burn off the alcohol in the mirin.
- Add ¼ tsp of salt and mix.
- Place the udon noodles, shiitake mushrooms, shimeji mushrooms and spring onion to the broth and allow to boil for 1-2 minutes.
- Crack two eggs into the broth and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Finally add the shrimp tempura, kamaboko, fu, blanched spinach and cooked chicken (with juices from the pan) and boil in the broth for 1 more minute or until the eggs are cooked to your preference.
- Sprinkle with spring onion to garnish.
This recipe is made in 1 large donabe for 2 people. Alternatively you can use two single-serving donabe pots and divide the ingredients into each pot.
This dish can also be made with beef, pork or salmon fillet.
Fu can be swapped for tofu.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: Noodles
- Method: Simmering
- Cuisine: Japanese
Keywords: nabeyaki udon, nabeyaki udon recipe, how to make nabeyaki udon, what is in nabeyaki udon, what is nabeyaki udon, nabeyaki udon noodles, udon soup, nabeyaki udon soup, japanese fu, temari fu, temari-fu, temarifu, chicken nabeyaki udon, nabeyaki udon ingredients, nabeyaki udon history,
Can FU be made at home if so is there a recipe for it to attempt to make it.
Thanks in advance
I'm not sure how to make fu. Since it's for decoration rather than flavour, I'd recommend omitting it or substituting for tofu.
Thanks for your question and sorry I couldn't be of any more help!