Noodles are one of the staple foods in many cultures including Japan. A lot of Japanese dishes use noodles as the main ingredient, such as Ramen and Udon, dipped in variety of broths and topped with meat and veggies. Small shops, restaurants, and even food vendors during the festivals are filled with all kinds of noodles. So what are some of the most famous and tasty noodle dishes in Japan?
Ramen (ラーメン) is a noodle soup dish which originally comes from China, but both Japan and Korea have developed their own ramen varieties through the centuries. Japanese ramen is one of the favourites among foreigners and a hearty dish beloved by Japanese. The noodles are made from wheat and are served in a bowl with some toppings, such as Chashu (Sliced pork), Menma (Bamboo shoots), soft-boiled eggs or some kind of seaweed. Aside from these well known toppings, you can also see mushrooms, leek, spring onions, lotus root, tofu and so on. Soy sauce or miso is often used in the soup to make it even more delicious, as well dashi stock and other fish based stocks can be added (even when you don’t feel a strong fishy smell). There are several types of ramen dishes in Japan, usually each region has its own ramen style.
The most popular types are:
- Shoyu (醤油, Soy Sauce), with clear brown chicken broth and soy sauce. This ramen often uses meat as the topping, such as pork, beef or fish. It is very popular in Tokyo and Kanto, and is considered a lighter ramen variety.
- Miso (味噌, Soybean Paste), the ramen soup is flavored with soybean paste (miso) and oily chicken or fish broth intended to warm your body. This ramen is from Hokkaido, and is suitable to its cold weather, as it is thicker and more heavy. Hokkaido ramen varieties might often feature butter too, while miso ramen can of course be found out of Hokkaido.
- Shio (塩, Salt) ramen features are light soup with clear broth. Usually, it uses chicken broth with a lot of salt. Meat is usually added as a topping, such as pork or beef, and narutomaki fish cakes.
- Tonkotsu (豚骨, Pork Bone), originated from Kyushu. The broth is cloudy white, made of pork bones which have been boiled until dissolved. It is one of the heartiest, richest broths, especially favoured by meat-lovers.
- Abura soba
All of these ramen flavours can sometimes be mixed and conbined, with new ramen experimental dishesh constantly appearing. You can find black squid ink ramen, blue chicken ramen, peach ramen, yuzu citrus ramen, and many many new tasty vegan ramen dishes.
is ramen noodles NOT in broth. The hot broth is on the side, and you dip the cold ramen noodles in it as you eat.
is basically dry ramen, no broth on the side. It says ‘soba’ in the name, but it is not buckwheat noodles, it’s ramen noodles. The noodles are quickly stir fried and oiled, hence the word ‘abura’ in the name meaning ‘oil’.
Udon (うどん) is kind of Japanese noodles with thick texture made of wheat flour. Usually, they are served hot in a simple dish (Known as kake udon) or flavoured broth Kaketsuyu. Kaketsuyu is a blend of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. Some toppings are also added such as tempura, chopped scallions, seaweed, and boiled egg. Each region has different ways to serve udon – cold regions such as Hokkaido often use more soy sauce and oily broth to keep the body warm.
Most popular udon varieties are are:
- Curry Udon, udon noodles combined with Japanese curry. This udon is most suitable for the winter, as it is heavier and richer.
- Tempura Udon, usually served with hot broth and tempura as the topping (not on the side).
Soba (そば) noodles are made of buckwheat and are as thick as spaghetti. The dish can be served hot in noodle soup or cold with dipping sauce. Some restaurants also let you choose whether you want the dipping sauce cold or hot. Different from others noodles dishes that are sometimes seasonal only, Soba dishes are available throughout the year because buckwheat can be harvested four times a year. Among all the noodles, the humble soba has the deepest cultural link to Japan, as it is eaten on New Year and called ‘toshikoshi soba’, having auspicious symbolism.
Soba is popular in all regions of Japan and can be easily found in many small shops and restaurants, always a reliable and affordable food option. Soba noodles are also available in dried form in supermarkets, or in online stores.
Yakisoba (焼きそば) is also made of buckwheat. It originated in China and became popular in Japan. Yakisoba noodles are served grilled on a hotplate or fried mixed with meat slices, vegetables (usually soybean sprouts, cabbage, onion), and garnished with red ginger. Sometimea they are also topped with powdered seaweed and bonito fish flakes, similar to okonomiyaki. The noodles and veggies are blended together by a dark brown yakisoba sauce (looks similar to Worcester sauce or BBQ sauce) that gives them a special taste and colour. This noodle dish can be easily found during any Japanese festival and outdoor celebration, being cooked fresh in the food stalls. It is also present in most izakaya menus, school cafeterias, and conbini premade meals. One of the most unusual yakisoba dishes is the yakisoba sandwich – noodles in between bread buns!
Somen noodles are made of white flour. They are thinner than Udon and Soba (resembling angel hair pasta), and lighter in taste. Sōmen are usually served cold with tsuyu (dipping sauce).
A very popular summer dish, sōmen are chilled and eaten on a hot day to stay cool. There is a unique tradition in Japan associated with somen. “Nagashi Somen”, or act of catching somen noodles that are flowing in the water through bamboo pipes with chopsticks, and dipping them into cool broth before eating.
Read more about Nagashi Somen here https://jpninfo.com/53955