Most everyone in the United States has seen ramen, and possibly tried them at some point. But did you know that ramen is not the only noodles eaten often in Japan? If you’ve ever been to a Japanese restaurant, you might have also seen soba and udon noodles on the menu. These two types of noodles are not only tasty, but also quite healthy as well.
Health benefits aside, different kinds of Japanese noodles are also a great comfort food. They’re perfect any time of year, but especially in the colder months when a nice bowl of noodles and other flavorful ingredients really warm you up with their perfect umami.
Ramen is actually Chinese in origin but is a very popular staple in Japan and other Asian countries. For real ramen experience, avoid the instant kind sold cheaply in many supermarkets. Fresh ramen noodles are the way to go to really enjoy their sweet, earthy and salty flavors. Available in different varieties and thicknesses, they all tend to exhibit a bit of curling and waviness.
Made from wheat and kansui, a type of salt water rich with minerals, ramen noodles are a yellowish color due to the addition of the water. They are very good in a broth of dashi, miso, tonkotsu or even chicken broth, along with an assortment of other ingredients. Read this post for ideas and instructions on how to make the perfect ramen, including the tools and techniques needed.
An authentic ramen experience is truly enjoyable, and a great idea to share with dinner guests as well.
Made from buckwheat, these thin, healthy and flavorful soba noodles can be enjoyed hot or cold. The versatile noodles make an appearance in a wide variety of dishes, but the most common way to eat it is with a simple dipping sauce and a bit of tempura.
You can also enjoy soba in cold salads, in a hot broth, in a cold dish with sesame dressing, and with many other healthy garnishes and ingredients.
Udon noodles are thicker and chewier than soba noodles due to the heavy kneading of the dough, which includes wheat flour, salt and water. Despite their size, they are quite light on the stomach and are often a great accompaniment to hot broths and soups. Udon absorb flavor, so a good broth only enhances the umami of the dish.
You can also eat udon cold with various dressings or garnishes, or in a stir-fry with vegetables and proteins.
Quite the opposite of udon, somen noodles are very thin noodles. People in Japan typically eat somen cold in the summer. They are quite light and are usually eaten with a dipping sauce. Grated ginger and sliced green onions might also garnish the dish. If you want to make it a bit more heartier meal, you can add vegetables or fried eggs.
Somen noodles are traditionally enjoyed during the Tanabata Festival, because the cold dish relates to a wish for a healthy summer. But you don’t need to wait for the festival to enjoy them all year round!