Udon Noodles with Clam Sauce


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

This recipe combines Japanese udon noodles with an Italian clam sauce. I first ate Udon-getti at a small, “punky” pasta parlor called Kabé no Ana (“A Hole in the Wall”) in the Shibuya district of Tokyo about seven years ago. At that time, I thought it was a delicious comment on culinary migration: Noodles thought to have originated in China, brought to Italy for European refinement, were being returned to the Far East for Japanese enjoyment. I complete the worldly travelogue by bringing this cross-cultural wonder to the United States.


  • 2 dozen cherrystone or other hard-shell clams
  • 2 tablespoons saké (Japanese rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mirini (syrupy rice wine)
  • 1 pound fresh udon (thick white noodles) or ½ pound hoshi udon (dried thick white noodles)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small clovel garlic, peeled and minced pinch salt
  • ½ sheet yaki-zushi nori (toasted paper-thin seaweed), cut into very thin 1-inch strips


Scrub the clam shells to remove surface dirt. Soak the clams undisturbed in salted water (it should taste briny like the ocean) for 1–2 hours, then stir up the water and discard. Place the cleaned clams in a sturdy pot large enough to hold them comfortably. Add the rice wine and 2 tablespoons of cold water, and cover the pot. Over high heat, steam the clams just until they open. Pour the broth through a cloth-or paper-lined strainer or colander, then season it with the soy sauce and syrupy rice wine. Remove the clam meats and discard their shells and any unopened clams. Cut each of the clam meats in half, or into quarters if really large.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the fresh noodles for 4–5 minutes; they should be firm but tender. If using dried noodles, toss them into deep, vigorously boiling water and stir. When the water returns to a boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Continue to cook over high heat for 5–6 minutes after the water returns to a second boil. Test a strand; it should be translucent with no opaque core. Drain the noodles immediately after cooking. Rinse the noodles under running warm water for a few seconds to remove excess surface starch, then toss them with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large, heavy-duty skillet. Sauté the garlic in it for 2 minutes over low heat. Add the clam meats and raise the heat to high as you toss them about in the garlic and oil. Season with a pinch of salt, add the cooked noodles to the skillet and toss to incorporate. Add the reserved and seasoned clam broth and continue to sauté, stirring for 1 more minute, or until there’s barely any liquid left to the sauce.

Divide the noodles and clam sauce into four portions and garnish the top of each with one quarter of the seaweed strips. Serve immediately.