All About Udon
The thickest of Japan’s noodles, udon, are white, wheat-based Japanese noodles. Depending on the season, udon noodles are either served cold with dipping sauce—when it’s warm outside—or in hot dishes and soups—when it’s cooler.
To enjoy udon noodles in their purest form, go for a traditional dish called Kake Udon. This version of udon features a simple stock called kakejiru. The broth is made using three iconic Japanese ingredients: dashi, mirin, and soy sauce. Chopped scallions are a popular topping. Sometimes, fried tofu and/or tempura are also added.
Just like ramen, the flavor profiles of udon soup broths vary region-to-region across Japan. Although, one notable trend is that broths are typically darker in eastern Japan thanks to the use of dark soy sauce, also called koikuchi shōyu. In contrast, broths tend to be lighter, due to the use of light soy sauce or usukuchi shōyu, in western Japan.
Three other popular udon dishes are Kitsune Udon, or “fox udon,” Chikara Udon, and Curry Udon. Kitsune Udon is a meatless soup that’s topped with fried tofu. Wondering what this soup has to do with foxes? According to Japanese legend, fried tofu is supposed to be a fox’s favorite food. Chikara Udon also has an essential topping. This dish, also called “power udon,” is a dashi-style noodle soup that’s topped with mochi, which is meant to melt into the warm broth. Curry Udon is a spicy and comforting dish made with Japanese curry roux. Another udon dish worth mentioning is Yaki Udon; unlike the previous ones that have broth, Yaki Udon is a stir-fried dish with meat and vegetables.
One other wheat noodle dish popular in Japan but relatively new elsewhere are somen noodles. Hiyashi Somen, a cold noodle dish, is eaten during the Tanabata Festival.
Who doesn’t love noodles? Between curly ramen, buckwheat-y soba, and thick udon noodles, it’s difficult to choose a favorite. Of course, there’s no need to have only one. With all the hot and cold varieties of each of these types of Japanese noodles, there are endless possibilities for your next snack or meal.