Japan is a country that loves its noodles. That is exactly why you will find an incredible variety of noodles to slurp (which is polite over there) and enjoy when you go there. But to the untrained eye, you might simply assume that all of these noodles are the same. Isn’t a noodle just a noodle?
Not to the Japanese! Let’s take a look at three of the most popular types of noodles in Japan: udon, soba, and ramen.
These Udon noodles are thick and offer a unique texture. They’re made from wheat flour and you should cook them to be al dente. They’re usually served in a simple broth, which is a lovely way to have them. Over in Japan, you’ll find bowls of udon served in a variety of ways with some pretty wild toppings like all kinds of tempura for example. If you’re able to fry up something tempura-style with your udon at home, the sensory delight of crispy tempura alongside the chewy thick noodles will rock your world.
Soba noodles aren’t thick like udon. In fact, they’re more akin to ramen noodles. But don’t think they’re the same. Not at all. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour. That gives them a brown color and a much softer texture. They can soak up broth very well, making for a flavorful taste in every bite. In Japan, you’ll often find them served chilled but you can order them in soup too. Stir-fry it to create a popular Japanese dish.
The Japanese noodle most Westerners are familiar with is ramen. What’s interesting is that these noodles vary by each region of Japan. Authentic ramen noodles are wheat-based and have a darker yellow hue than the kind you find at the store. They’re also so much tastier. But whether you get them fresh in Japan or imported here, they should have a long and springy texture that’s a bit chewy. Having ramen by itself in broth will always be tasty and in Japan, the broth is what really makes it, but there is so much more you can do with it, like add an egg into the pot when you’re cooking it or top it with slices of vegetables and meats.
Why not try them all? You could have a Japanese noodle dinner party and serve different types of Japanese noodles. Now that would really be using your noodle!