Herschell Taghap’s Kimchi Buta Yaki Udon Procures Comfort from the Freezer

Pork belly, noodles, and kimchi make memorable weeknight dinners happen.

By Herschell Taghap Photography by Herschell Taghap August 24, 2020

It’s ironic that my first installment of #HellaRice doesn’t have rice at all. These are the recipes that I have cooked for my family at home to the best of my ability during the past five years—recreated in recipe form. We already ate it and for the most part, enjoyed it. I hope you will too.


Everyone’s everything changed this year. We adjusted, then readjusted, and found a new normal pretty fast. We had to. To cope, I personally grasped for things that comforted me: ’90s NBA finals games that I forgot the outcome to (loljk go Bulls); Spotify playlists of jazz fusion bands my high school music teacher loved; old pictures of friends and relatives so my son could see their faces every day; and of course, bowls of kimchi buta yaki udon.

My wife and I used to slide into the former Kushibar in Belltown to order this and some grilled tongue skewers between rounds of strong cocktails at Rob Roy. I also love the idea of a Japanese dish (yaki udon, or stir-fried noodles) with such Korean ingredients. This remix kind of validates every Asian-ish meal I make at home. It’s also an easy mental checklist to run through during the workday for that night’s dinner. A big jar of kimchi with frozen pork belly and udon noodles? Check, check, check.

I use frozen pork belly in this recipe, presliced about a quarter-inch thick. Since it’s so fatty, I’ve found that buying a stack of belly from your favorite Asian grocery store like Viet-Wah or Uwajimaya (even Costco carries it regularly) and storing in single layers in gallon freezer bags enables quick deployment. I also keep udon in the freezer at all times—more specifically sanukiya-style udon: a thicker, much heartier noodle that can handle a tough sear better than its thinner dried version made for soups. The same Asian grocers have them in packs of five or six in their freezer aisles.

Kimchi Buta Yaki Udon

Active time: 30 min
Total time: 40 min
Serves: 2 hungry adults and a kiddo

¼ lb of skinless pork belly slices, a quarter-inch thick
½ cup water
½ large onion, cut in five radiuses (outer ring towards the center) to make petals
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup (aka "a grip") of kimchi 
1 tbsp canola oil
3 packs frozen sanukiya udon, soaked in hot water for five minutes, drained and patted dry
3 tbsp mentsuyu (recipe below)

1. Chop frozen pork belly into quarter-inch pieces; frozen fat is easier to slice through than a leaner cut of meat. Slack (or defrost) in freezer bags under cold running water for a few minutes if you don’t have the confidence to work with frozen meat.

2. Start a frying pan over medium heat with half a cup of water to defrost and render the fat. Add pork. When the water evaporates, the pork will start to fry in its own lard. Scoop out of pan when golden brown and set aside in serving dish.

3. Add onion petals in the same pan with a touch of sesame oil. Wait two minutes for them to get golden brown and then add as much kimchi (with as little juice as possible) as you’d like. Toss with tongs, then let it ride for five minutes to get caramelized.

4. In a separate nonstick pan, add canola oil and preheat over medium-high heat until it starts to smoke. Preheat your pan please. Add your drained udon noodles (if there’s excess water, it will splatter). Wait three minutes. Give the pan a shake so the noodles release. Wait another two minutes.

5. Add mentsuyu and toss, toss, toss to caramelize. Add a splash of water to your kimchi pan and release brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add pork and noodles. Toss, toss, toss.

The perfect bite is a crunch of onion, some spicy kimchi, and crispy pork belly wrapped in seared noodles. Great with a cold pilsner. Serve with pickled turnips or iceberg and ranch…or top with mashed up rinds or flaming hot Cheetos. Do the best with what you got. I believe in you. It’s going to be great.

Herschell Taghap spent nearly a decade as a cook, social media manager, and resident DJ for Tom Douglas Restaurants. Now, he works in social media, teaches cooking classes, and is happiest feeding his family.


(Normally used as a soup base, but in this case it’s used as a seasoning for the entire dish.)


¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
2 tbsp sake
cup bonito flakes

1. Add all ingredients to a small pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat for 10 minutes.

2. Strain into a small jar and label. 

3. Store in refrigerator. Use within a few days.



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