Japanese food

Yaki udon

udon noodles

This dish is becoming a firm family favourite. It makes an excellent, quick, midweek dinner and can be easily adapted to please the fussy tastes of children. This was the dish that I always used to order at Wagamamas. I don’t bother now that I can make it so easily at home but the reduced portion sizes at Wagamamas have put me off going there in any case.

In this recipe everything revolves around the sauce and noodles. You can then freestyle the rest adding whatever vegetables are in your bottom drawer of your fridge. The original recipe (from Tim Anderson’s ‘Nanban – Japanese Soul Food’) adds beansprouts and mushrooms but I generally use cabbage and carrots because I always have those in and everyone in our household likes them. Tim also adds bacon and you could add chicken or prawns if you like, but I prefer to keep it vegetarian.

With regards to the noodles, I use ready made quick cook udon noodles which I buy from Tesco. Loyal followers of this blog may remember that I did once attempt to make my own but this was very hard work (you have to knead and walk on the dough multiple times and then hand roll the noodles!). I generally don’t mind putting in the effort if the end result is fabulous but in this case the final noodles were a bit rugged and rather stodgy.

My children don’t like onion and so I only put the crispy onion and spring onion on the adult plates. Likewise with the sesame seeds. Everyone likes the omelette topping though and the children squabble over who gets the biggest portion of this.


Serves 4

  • 4 x 200g cooked udon noodles
  • ½ a cabbage cut into very thin strips
  • 4 carrots sliced lengthways as thinly as possible and then cut into fine strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped or grated


  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of dashi powder or MSG (optional – obviously don’t use dashi if you’re a vegetarian)

To garnish

  • Thin omelettes cooled and very finely sliced
  • Sesame seeds
  • Crispy fried onions (you can buy these ready made or make your own buy slicing an onion very, very thinly and then frying on a high heat in a lot of oil for 5-10 minutes until brown and crispy. Drain well on kitchen roll before using)
  • The green tops of spring onion

This makes a large amount. You will need a large wok, otherwise cook in two batches.

Heat a little oil in a large wok until hot. Stir fry the carrots for 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and cabbage and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes until wilted.

Mix up the ingredients for the sauce and add to the pan, then stir in the cooked or straight-to-wok udon noodles. Stir fry for another couple of minutes until heated through and then serve.

Garnish with the sesame seeds, egg, spring onion and crisp fried onion (or any combination of these that you like).



I’ve completely failed in my new year’s resolution to be a more exciting cook. Slowly I’ve crept back into lazy habits and three months on I’m cooking mainly tried and tested old staples that are already on this blog.

I’ve not yet told you about this one though. It’s a really easy way to transform any piece of meat or fish into something more exciting. You can buy teriyaki sauce ready made in a bottle but it’s much nicer (and cheaper) to make your own.

This is in memory of our epic holiday in Japan which was exactly a year ago. We just have to wait 9 more years before we get to go again.

Teriyaki sauce

Makes about 6 tablespoons

  • 120ml of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 60ml of Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 4 minutes until syrupy.

Any unused sauce can be kept in a clean jar in the fridge.

Using the sauce

Lightly season two chicken breasts with salt and pepper and fry on a medium heat with a little oil until just cooked through (I cook mine for 5 minutes each side).

Spoon over 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and continue to cook for about a minute spooning over the sauce all the time to glaze the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pan and slice thinly.

Serve over rice and drizzle over any remaining sauce from the pan.

This is also nice served over a simple green salad.


For Japanese style rice cook according to the guidance in my post Sushi rolls but omit the vinegar, sugar and salt and serve while it’s still warm.

This technique can also be used for steak, pork or fish.


A year ago in sunny Japan some geisha asked to have their photo taken with Elizabeth and Eddie. Today we’re in Nottingham and it’s raining.

Sushi rolls

sushi rolls 4

I am obsessed with Japanese food but I’m not particularly skilled at making it. Despite this I keep trying because my mother told me ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again’. This saying is so true that I now hear myself repeating it to my own children.

And here’s a good example. Despite failing many times to cook perfect sushi rice, I have kept at it and have finally found a method that works. I can’t tell you how pleased I am and I’ve got to write it down quickly for the record before it escapes me.

This is an amalgamation of two recipes – the first is from ‘Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking’ and the second is from the Japanese section of ‘The Essential Asian Cookbook’.

Staying with the Japanese theme, I also tried to make my own udon noodles this week. They weren’t too bad but I need to keep trying before I can confidently post the recipe.

Sushi rice

This makes enough for 5 sushi sausages the length of a sheet of nori (about 20cm), ready to be cut into rounds

  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

First rinse the rice really well in cold water until the water runs clear. My technique for doing this is to measure the rice into a saucepan, cover with cold water and swill around with my hands until the water turns cloudy, then drain carefully using the lid (making sure no rice escapes down the sink). It’s quite therapeutic and I repeat this up to 10 times until the water is clear (well clearish anyway).

Drain and leave to the rice to rest uncovered for 30 minutes (this is Harumi’s tip and I think it’s the secret).

Add the water, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes with a tight fitting lid on.

Remove from the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes, still with the lid on.

Mix 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Stir this into the hot sushi rice (gently so that it doesn’t go mushy) then spread the rice out thinly on a baking tray or two and pop in the fridge to cool.

Sushi rolls (sushi maki)

You can use this rice for a variety of Japanese dishes. Shape it into ovals with your hands and place some thinly sliced raw tuna on top and you have a rough kind of sushi.

I prefer to make sushi rolls which are a nice alternative to sandwiches at lunchtime. You can stuff them with virtually anything. The ones in the photo above have teriyaki pork inside but you can also use raw tuna, raw salmon, cucumber, strips of omelette, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise. The last two don’t seem very authentic but they are very popular in Japanese Seven Elevens and are very popular with my children.

Rolling up

Cut out a sheet of greaseproof paper and put a sheet of cling film on top. Then place a nori sheet on top of that. You can buy nori sheets in most supermarkets these day. Using damp hands spread the rice thinly over about half the nori sheet leaving a small gap around the sides (1 cm).

Place a strip of filling in the centre of the rice and then, using the greaseproof paper/cling film to help you, roll the nori up from the bottom enclosing the rice around the centred ingredients. You will probably need to trim the nori, it needs to overlap slightly but you don’t want a double layer all the way round.

Now discard the greaseproof paper and wrap the cling film around the sushi roll a couple of times and twist the ends to make a nice, tight sausage shape. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

When you’re ready to serve take a very sharp knife and cut the roll into rounds about 2 ½ cm thick. I find it easier to do this with the cling film still on and then remove it after cutting.

Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.

Note: My children go mad for an egg mayonnaise filling but they are not keen on the nori outer so I roll up without (as in the photo below).

sushi rolls for kids