Ok, brace yourselves, because this recipe is culturally confused. It boasts Chinese, Korean and Japanese ingredients unified against the backbone of an Italian dish so ubiquitous and beloved that although it has only been documented since the middle of the 20th century it is as sacred as a dish quadruple its age. I am speaking, of course, of Carbonara. And most people will tell you, you don’t f*ck around with Carbonara. It’s already perfect and why improve upon perfection? Well, for one thing, how interesting is perfect?
My recipe for Kimchi Udon Carbonara is not meant to challenge the lush, comforting and bacony (?) allure of traditional Carbonara. It’s just something my brain cooked up while I was eating kimchi udon at a local Izakaya. It’s my favourite thing on the menu at Guu Izakaya in Toronto and I really wanted to recreate it at home, you know, to ensure kimchi udon would always be within reach. But I knew the dish contained salmon roe, which is cool by me but less cool by my partner in crime (you can read more about this ongoing struggle here).
When I eat something really good at a restaurant I can’t help but pick it apart, like a socially awkward engineering student with an antiquated laptop. I know when I start thinking out loud to my dining mates about how particular dish was built, I sound like the nerdiest nerd whoever nerded…and also boring, like, so boring. So to ensure I hold on to my friends, I’ve been trying to keep this thought process internal before I can let loose in the kitchen. So while I plowing through my plate of kimchi udon I silently wrestled with the realization that I could never recreate it because of a certain fishy ingredient. And in the original dish, the salmon roe didn’t play a passive role. The salmon roe wasn’t simply a garnish, oh no, it was integral to the texture of the overall dish; it enveloped the noodles in an oily flavour-rich coating that made the noodles slip past your lips effortlessly. How was I going to do this at home without salmon roe? Then I thought, eggs!
Eggs are the answer to so many culinary questions. They thicken, add richness of flavour and colour and they can be used just about anywhere. They’re also not fish…although, I’m now clueing in that salmon roe is in fact fish eggs, so perhaps I should’ve specified that I am now talking about eggs of the poultry variety. Anyway, once I had settled on chicken eggs as my less fishy stand-in the rest of the recipe sort of wrote itself. I mean, where else are you supposed to go when you have an pot of hot noodles and an egg in-hand? It’s Carbonara or bust, dude!
I hope you enjoy this one as much as my beau and I did. We’re heat fiends so we enjoyed it with a squirt of Sriracha and he also added Szechuan pepper flakes, which he highly recommends. But I feel I should warn you, he is in no way normal when it comes to heat tolerance so proceed at your own risk.
- 2 (200 grams) packs of fresh udon noodles
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 Chinese sausages, diced
- 3 teaspoons dried wakame
- 1 cup kimchi, pureed
- 3 whole eggs
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, place the wakame and a small amount of water in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic browns and becomes rigid. Fish the garlic out of the pan and set aside.
- Salt the now boiling water and add the udon. Boil for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Drain the noodles reserving 2/3 cup of the cooking water.
- Add the Chinese sausage to the pan and cook until crisp. Place the fried sausage on a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.
- While the sausage is cooking place the eggs, kimchi and soy sauce in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk the ingredients together until well incorporated.
- Pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan and reduce the heat to low. Add the udon, sausage and rehydrated wakame to the pan and give them a quick toss. Ensure that all of the components in the pan are hot at this point.
- Add the egg mixture to the noodles and quickly toss to coat. You have to move quickly to ensure you don't wind up with scrambled eggs instead of creamy sauce. Doctor the sauce to your desired consistency using the reserved noodle water.
- Serve immediately with garlic chips, green onions and toasted sesame seeds.