I love these noodles. I really, really love them. They have satisfied so many cravings over the years. Cravings for a quick, easy dinner. Cravings for noodles bathed in a silky, savory sauce. Cravings for beautiful Asian flavors when we don’t feel like going out. These noodles are seriously satisfying. When I sit down to a hot bowl, I eat like I haven’t eaten in a month. All portion control rules are thrown out the window. I can’t help it! Please try them. It’s not fair that I keep such deliciousness all to myself. There are three things I particularly love about this recipe:
1. The sauce is deceiving. Complex in flavor, yet so simple to throw together. You measure out the ingredients and whisk them together in a bowl. No cooking required. That’s the best kind! Of course the overriding flavors are peanut and ginger, but these are enhanced by salty soy sauce, tangy rice wine vinegar, sweet honey, nutty sesame oil and heat from freshly grated garlic. It’s a well-balanced sauce, that’s what I’m trying to say!
2. You can prep ahead. I often make a double batch of the sauce and freeze half for another day. You can chop the chicken, vegetables and garnishes the day before. The only thing I hold off on chopping is the fresh coriander because it has a tendency to wilt. I marinate the chicken for about 15 minutes before I cook it. It really doesn’t need any longer than this, trust me. I let the chicken marinate over night once. It was so salty, it was pretty much inedible. Yeah, that’s what soy sauce will do. I learned my lesson!
3. You can use packaged pre-cooked noodles. Wow, is this a time saver. I’ve used my favorite Clearspring Udon noodles in these photos, which must be simmered gently for about 9 minutes. However, I’ve definitely used the pre-cooked Udon-style noodles if I’m really strapped for time. I add them to the pan at the same time I would the others. They only take a couple of minutes to plump up and they absorb the sauce really well. The pre-cooked noodles are a perfect substitute if you want to speed up the process even more.
My favorite additions are chicken, sweet bell peppers and carrots, but use whatever vegetables, meat or seafood you love. This is such a flexible recipe.
And here are the little Udon beauties after they’ve been tossed with the stir fried chicken, vegetables and sauce. But wait – it gets even better.
I add two very large handfuls of chopped spring onions and fresh coriander. The freshness of the herbs really brightens up the sauce.
Toss again to combine and get ready to eat!
Garnish the noodles with more spring onion, fresh coriander and chopped, salted peanuts. The peanuts must not be forgotten, their crunchiness makes the dish. Dinner tonight, anyone?
A few notes on the Peanut Ginger Sauce:
It’s really important to taste the sauce and adjust the balance of flavor according to your personal preference. If you’re not a massive fan of one (or a few) of the ingredients, just start with half the amount called for in the recipe and then make adjustments at the end. I often add more honey or ginger at the end to get the flavor I love.
The amount of water called for in the recipe below (1/3 cup) usually gives me the consistency I’m after. I want the sauce to be relatively thin so it coats the noodles evenly without being too gloopy. However, if the sauce is too watery it will wash out the flavour and it won’t stick to the noodles properly. A lot of this depends on the consistency of your peanut butter, so you may need to add less or more water. I’d start with a 1/4 cup of warm water, then add more until you get the right consistency.
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: 2 whole
- Chinese five spice powder: 1 teaspoon
- Soy sauce: 2 tablespoons + ¼ cup (60 ml), divided
- Groundnut oil: 3 tablespoons, divided
- Smooth peanut butter: ½ cup (280g)
- Hot tap water: ¼ cup to ⅓ cup (60ml to 80ml)
- Fresh ginger, peeled and grated: 1½ to 2 tablespoons (about a 3 inch piece)
- Fresh garlic, peeled and grated: 2 medium size cloves
- Rice wine vinegar: 2 tablespoons
- Sesame oil: 1 tablespoon
- Honey: 1½ tablespoons
- Udon noodles: ¾ pound (340g)
- Chili Flake: ¼ teaspoon
- Bell Peppers: 2 whole (I usually use a red and yellow pepper)
- Carrot: 1 small
- Spring onions: 3 to 4 whole
- Fresh coriander (cilantro): large handful, approx. ¼ cup
- Salted peanuts, roughly chopped: 2 to 3 tablespoons
- Pound the chicken breasts between two sheets of cling film (I use a rolling pin) until they are an even thickness, measuring about ½ inch thick.
- Lay each chicken breast horizontally and slice the chicken breasts vertically into thin strips.
- Line a drinking glass with a medium size re-sealable plastic bag and toss in the sliced chicken, along with the Chinese five spice powder, soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the ground nut oil. Let the chicken marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Prepare the sauce by measuring out the peanut butter, remaining ¼ cup of soy sauce, hot tap water, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and honey into a large bowl or measuring cup and whisk together. *Note: Start with ¼ cup (60 ml) of hot water and add more, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. I prefer my sauce to be pretty thin, but not runny or watery.
- Core, seed and thinly slice the peppers (remember to remove the bitter white ribs!) and thinly shave the carrot with a vegetable peeler. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the spring onions on a diagonal and roughly chop the coriander and peanuts. Set aside.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the Udon noodles according to the directions on the package. Make sure to lower the heat to medium high once you've added the noodles so they simmer gently. Drain the cooked noodles in a colander and rinse with cold water.
- Meanwhile, preheat a wok or large non-stick frying pan over high heat. When the pan begins to smoke, toss in the chicken with its marinade. Stir fry over high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is nicely golden and cooked through. I cut a few pieces in half to make sure it's cooked. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining one tablespoon of ground nut oil to the wok or pan, along with the chili flakes and bell peppers. Stir fry for a further 3 to 4 minutes, then lower the heat to medium low.
- Add the cooked chicken, noodles and carrot strips to the pan with the peppers. Pour over half the sauce and toss the mixture over low heat. Continue to add the sauce until all the ingredients are nicely coated. You may not need all of the sauce.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add most of the spring onions and fresh coriander (cilantro). Toss the noodles again to combine all the ingredients.
- Plate the noodles and garnish with extra spring onion, coriander (cilantro) and salted peanuts.