Kimchi Stir-Fried Noodles
For those days when you want a hearty, quick meal, you’ll love this plate of umami-packed stir-fried noodles.
While my husband was away managing the wallcovering installation in Sun Valley a few weeks ago, our evening conversations, after the usual daily updates, always ended up about food. Meal planning, shopping and preparation have been my domain for the past twenty years so it was with interest when I listened to him describe what he had prepared for dinner. One night it was these lentils and another night it was his default, veggie tacos. When on one of his last evenings before returning home he was at a loss what to prepare, I guided him through defrosting the frozen shrimp in the freezer, seasoning, then stir-frying them with whatever vegetables he had left. He was so proud of himself for adding another dish to his (admittedly narrow) cooking repertoire that he’s still talking about it a few weeks later.
Meanwhile, here in the Bay Area, knowing that I’d temporarily be cooking for one, my grand plans involved spaghetti carbonara, French Style Ribs or some other meat-centric dish that’s not part of our regular dinner rotation since we stick to a mostly lean protein or pescatarian diet.
But after dropping him off at the airport the last thing I wanted to do was visit the market. Using up all the previous grocery run’s supplies stretched into almost a week of lighter fare like simple vegetable soups, sandwiches and vegan stir-fried noodles like this that took only minutes to whip together…and I was quite content. The richer meals I thought I wanted never happened–my kitchen time was allocated to baking sourdough bread and desserts which I shared with local friends (contactless doorstep drop-offs).
This dish of stir-fried noodles happened out of a craving for rice after days of soups and sandwiches. Kimchi Fried rice was the intended meal but substituting the rice with the package of fresh yakisoba noodles that didn’t get used before my husband left for Idaho turned out to be a very nice alternative to the original idea.
The beauty of this recipe is that it is very quick to prepare and friendly for all kinds of substitutions. I used packaged fresh yakisoba noodles from the produce department (Japanese wheat noodles; this brand is what is available at my local market) which cook in just a few minutes. I don’t use the flavor packets that come with the noodles and usually opt for the last bits of protein and vegetables in my refrigerator and my favorite seasonings.
This time around kimchi and black bean chili sauce were my flavor base, accompanied by blanched bok choy, sliced tofu browned in a skillet and a fried egg. The egg is entirely optional if you’re vegan and with the rest of the add-ins is a perfectly balanced meal. I’ve yet to prepare these noodles for my husband but I’m already betting that this will be another easy dish he’ll happily embrace as one he can be proud of.
- Noodles: Instead of Yakisoba noodles, feel free to use dried angel hair pasta or spaghetti. Any of the dried or fresh noodles at the Asian market would work, too. Just prepare them according to package directions, undercooking by one minute then draining.
- Black Bean chili sauce: I used this hot sauce but you can use any other flavor base to augment the kimchi. Sambal oelek or any other chili paste would work here. You can omit it also and just use a little more soy sauce.
- Protein and Vegan Option: If you’re not vegan, leftover chicken, pork or beef would work in this recipe. Here, I prepared tofu separately by lightly browning slices in a skillet.
- Vegetables: Use whatever you have in the refrigerator–cabbage, kale, chard, celery–all would work.
Kimchi Stir-Fried Noodles
For those days when you want a hearty, quick meal, you'll love this plate of umami-packed stir-fried noodles.
- 2 5.5 -ounce packages Yakisoba Noodles (See Note)
- 1 cup kimchi, drained and chopped (save the kimchi liquid)
- 1/2 onion sliced thinly
- 1-2 tablespoons black bean hot sauce or your favorite chili sauce or omit and use more soy sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons oil
- 2 stalks scallions for garnish, optional
- lemon or lime juice for serving
- tofu slices lightly pan fried
- leftover chicken, pork or beef
- blanched leafy greens (I used bok choy)
- Fried egg
(Optional) If you're preparing the tofu, slice a block of drained, firm tofu and lightly pan fry until golden. Set aside.
(Optional) If using bok choy or other greens, bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the vegetables for 30 seconds to one minute, drain and set aside. Save the water for blanching the noodles.
In a skillet, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat then add the onion and kimchi. Stir fry for two minutes or until the onion slices have starter to char or brown a little.
Into the boiling water, add the noodles and blanch them for 20-30 seconds. Then use tongs to fish them out of the water and transfer immediately to the skillet with the onion and kimchi. Add the reserved kimchi liquid if you have any and the soy sauce and black bean hot sauce or whatever chili sauce you decide to use. Add only one tablespoon of each and add the remaining tablespoon of the soy sauce and chili sauce if you feel more seasoning is called for (particularly if you opt out of the black bean chili sauce). Stir fry for three to four minutes until the noodles are lightly toasted. Add more oil if the noodles are too dry. Transfer to a plate and garnish with scallions and lemon or lime juice. Serve with your choice of protein and vegetables if you decided to opt out of the tofu and bok choy.
Noodles: These noodles come in packs of three so feel free to use all three packets for a larger serving for two. Also, for preparation, I’ve blanched the noodles for 20-30 seconds in boiling water but the package directions call for adding a little water to the pan with the noodles. They are very easy to prepare and the original method is even quicker.