Udon Noodles: A Japanese Staple

Udon, the thick, chewy noodles are a staple in Japanese cuisine. These soft textured noodles are leveraged into a multitude of hot and cold dishes. Read on to learn more about udon noodles, and how to use them in comforting meals.

What are Udon Noodles?

Udon noodles are thicker than soba noodles and are often available in flat or spherical forms. They are prepared with basic noodle ingredients including wheat flour, water, and salt. Unlike soba noodles, they’re not gluten-free and must be avoided by people with gluten allergies.

History of Udon Noodles

Udon noodles are believed to have originated in China and were later introduced to Japan sometime between 618 to 907 CE, the period of the Tang Dynasty. In the past, udon was formed into squares instead of noodles, and incorporated mostly into soupy dishes. Even today, udon noodles are widely enjoyed in Japan in many different forms and varieties.

Image Credit: Flickr user pelican ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

What Do Udon Noodles Taste Like?

Udon noodles offer a very neutral flavor and are usually used in soupy dishes to take in the broth flavors. Fresh udon noodles are thick, soft, and chewy, coupled with a bouncy nature, that works best for Japanese rich noodle soups. 

Uses of Udon Noodles

Udon noodles are mostly served hot in a dashi-based broth along with other ingredients, and sauces, just like Kitsune Udon, a classic Japanese noodle soup topped with crispy fried tofu. Besides kitsune udon, many other varieties of udon soups exist, depending upon the sauces, and other additional ingredients involved like chicken, beef, seafood, and vegetables. The toppings can also vary from tempura to fish cake and raw eggs to wakame.

Udon noodles can be leveraged into sizzling stir-frys or can be made into spaghetti-style pasta dishes. Yaki udon is a popular Japanese stir-fried dish prepared with udon, scallions, cabbage, bok choy, meat, soy sauce, and often garnished with sesame seeds. Besides, udon noodles are often added to Japanese hot pot, where they absorb all the rich umami flavors and balance the overall savoriness of the soup. Besides, these chewy noodles are topped with Japanese Curry, in a dish called curry udon.

Feature Image: Flickr user lu_lu ( CC BY-NC 2.0 )

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