How to Cook Noodles in a Wok

For everyday cooking, few methods are faster or easier than cooking in a wok. A wok is a Chinese skillet with a narrow base and high steep sides. Not only can you cook vegetables and meat in a wok, you can also cook noodles. Yakisoba, also known as stir-fried noodles, is a Japanese noodle dish that lends itself well to cooking in a wok. Yakisoba is a versatile dish that can be made without a recipe, using whatever vegetables and meat you have in the refrigerator.

Noodles with vegetables in wok on nature background
Noodles with vegetables in a wok. (Image: belchonock/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Boil a large pot of water to precook the soba. Soba is a Japanese noodle made of buckwheat. If you don't have soba, you can use spaghetti, Chinese egg noodles, or any spaghetti-shaped noodle as a substitute. Consult the side of the package for hints about how much soba to use per serving.

Step 2

Cook the soba in the boiling water until al dente. Begin testing it after about three minutes. It will probably be done in three to seven minutes. Pour the noodles into a colander and drain them.

Step 3

Add some sesame oil--how much depends on how many servings you are making, not more than a tablespoon. Toss the noodles to coat them in the oil. Set them aside.

Step 4

Shred or thinly slice your vegetables. They should be small enough that you can eat them without cutting them up any further at the table. They should also be sliced so they are not thicker than the thickness of your noodles. If you'd like your soba to have some kick, mince some garlic, fresh ginger, or peppers.

Step 5

Prepare your sauce. If you wish, you can use your favorite soy sauce. Otherwise, you can purchase a bottle of prepared stir-fry sauce or experiment with combinations of soy sauce, mirin, ginger, toasted sesame oil, or whatever else you think might be good. The amount of sauce you'll need is a matter of taste, but 1/4 to 1/3 cup per serving is a good beginning estimate.

Step 6

Slice the meat into thin slices. Like the vegetables, the pieces should be easily bite-sized and no thicker than your noodles. Allow 1/8 lb. to 1/4 lb. of meat per serving. If you'd like, you can add a little soy sauce to the meat to marinate it while you're heating your wok. If you don't want meat in your yakisoba, you can slice some tofu or nuts to use instead. Or you can skip this step entirely.

Step 7

Heat 1 to 3 tbsp. of oil in the wok over medium high to high heat. The oil will begin to shimmer when it is hot enough.

Step 8

Add the meat to the skillet first. Stir it around for one minute. Add the vegetables after the meat has changed color. Add the harder vegetables and the vegetables that need to be cooked thoroughly first: onions, carrots, celery, garlic. Stir and cook for 30 to 60 seconds. Then add in the softer vegetables: cabbage, peppers, ginger. Stir and cook them for a minute or two. How long you cook the vegetables at this point depends on how soft you like them. Keep the contents of the wok moving constantly so they don't burn. Finally, add the greens.

Step 9

Immediately after adding the greens, add the noodles and the sauce. Stir them gently until the noodles and vegetables are coated with the sauce. Some people like to use a tongs at this point in the cooking. Turn down the heat and continue to cook until the noodles are heated through and the greens are wilted. Immediately transfer the yakisoba to a serving bowl.

Things You'll Need

  • An assortment of vegetables such as onions, celery, cabbage, carrots, greens

  • Meat: chicken, beef or pork (optional)

  • Tofu (optional)

  • Nuts (optional)

  • Soy sauce, bottled stir-fry sauce or homemade stir-fry sauce

  • Knife

  • Cutting board

  • Sesame oil

  • Canola, grapeseed, peanut or safflower oil

  • Wok

  • Spatula or long-handled cooking spoon

  • Tongs (optional)

Tip

Begin by cooking the noodles first. You can be slicing vegetables and meat and preparing the sauce while they are cooking.

Al dente noodles have just a hint of chewiness. Al dente lies somewhere between crunchy and mushy. The best way to test for al dente is to pull a noodle from the pot, cool it slightly, and chew it.

Substituting cooked rice for the noodles gives you fried rice.

Warning

Use an oil with a high smoke point in your wok. Canola, grapeseed, peanut and safflower oil are all good choices. Olive oil and other oils with low smoke points will burn and add an unpleasant taste to your yakisoba.

Stir-fry is traditionally done over a blazingly hot fire. Beginners should start with medium high and work up to extra high heat as their stir-fry skill improve. It's easy to lose control of the cooking in a very hot wok.

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