In Japan, noodles are quite famous among the students and younger people, as they can be made easily and quickly. There’s also a huge variety of Asian noodles that are available. All of these noodles taste different and come in different flavours. These flavours and tastes are influenced by different regions and countries in the Asian continent. Noodles are an important part of Japanese cuisine too. It is also considered a staple in Japanese cuisine. The wide variety of noodles in Japan come in different flavour, taste and style. You get countless varieties and types of noodles in Japan. Some of the most common among these are Ramen, Udon and Soba noodles. But have you ever thought of comparing the three popular noodle types Ramen vs Udon vs Soba? Let's take a close look into these three types of noodles that you see everywhere when you are in Japan.
Ramen is one of the most famous Japanese noodles, typically regarded as a popular and affordable comfort food for all. Ramen is a thin, pale yellow, wheat-based noodle. These noodles are often curvy or wavy. Ramen noodles are made of flour and kansui (alkaline water). Ramen generally comes dipped in a meaty & soupy broth. The yummy broth is what makes ramen so famous! This broth is generally made with chicken, pork, fish or Shiitake mushroom-based stock. Soy sauce, salt, water & Tonkatsu (pork bone) are the most common ingredients used to make the broth. They also use seasoned oil to give the Ramen soup a delicious and rich flavour. The four major types of Ramen soups are Shoyu Ramen, Miso Ramen, Tonkotsu Ramen and Shio Ramen.
The first of its kind is the Tonkotsu soup Ramen. The soup here is of cloudy white coloured and is a thick broth made from pork bones. Shoyu Ramen soup is essentially a clear brown soup made with a similar stock and a lot of soy sauce. Menma, or marinated bamboo shoots, green onions, boiled eggs, etc are the common toppings for this Ramen. Shio Ramen is lighter in color and has a yellowish soup made with salt and broth. The Japanese generally use straight noodles for Shio Ramen. Miso Ramen is famous in Hokkaido. It is generally made with butter, corn, cabbage, sesame seeds and garlic. The Ramen bowl is served with several types of toppings which includes half-boiled Ajitama (seasoned eggs), sliced meat, menma (dried bamboo shoots) & green onions. Seaweeds can also be used as toppings. The taste of Ramen differs from region to region.
Udon is one of the thickest Japanese noodles, and is generally than ramen. Udon is a white in colour and wheat-based noodle. Udon noodles are served cold with a dipping sauce during the hot & humid summers or in a hot broth during the chilly winters to suit the season. Udon has more of a light and mild taste compared to Ramen. Udon noodles are also flexible, springy, bouncy, gummy & sticky. There are two basic types of udon. Kanto style udon and Kansai style udon. The toppings used for these noodles are eggs, green onions, sliced meat, tempura and aburaage (made with tofu).
The Kanto style udon soup has a saltier taste and a brown colour as a result of the dark soy sauce used to prepare this noodle. Kelp and Bonito are used for this soup stock. Though the taste of bonito is very different in this Kanto style udon soup. On the other hand, the Kansi style udon soup is less salty and has a light yellow colour. The soup is also thinner and transparent comparatively. As they use light soy sauce to prepare the Kansai style soup. The soy sauce used in this only adds flavour to the soup. Bonito, dried sardines and kelp are used to preparing this soup stock.
If one wants to experience Udon noodles in their original & purest form, one must try the traditional Japanese dish viz. Kake Udon. This dish is cooked in a simple stock called Kakejiru. The broth for Kake Udon is made using 3 common Japanese ingredients like dashi, mirin and soy sauce. Scallions, tempura or even deep Fried tofu can be used as toppings for Kake Udon.
Similar to Ramen the Udon soup, broth tastes vary from region to region.
Kitsune udon or ‘Fox Udon’ has a sweet aburaage topping. On the other hand Tanuki Udon or ‘Raccoon Udon’ comes with tempura batter flakes as the topping. The most exciting of them all is the Chikara Udon is topped with mochi And Stamina Udon is topped with meat, egg and vegetables.
Soba noodles are made from a mix of wheat and buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are either greyish or brownish in appearance as a result of the amount of buckwheat used to make these noodles. Soba noodles are naturally gluten-free and thinner. Soba noodles are packed with amino acids and antioxidants. Soba noodles are either served in hot broth or cold with a dipping sauce called Tsuyu similar to that of udon noodles. Though they are mostly served cold -they are also good to be served in a hot broth or with salad.
One of the most important dishes that features soba noodles is Toshikoshi soba. People generally eat it to celebrate new year’s eve. As the Japanese see the length of the noodles as longevity and since the noodles are easy to cut it is seen as letting go of past hardships.
The three main types of soba noodles are Tempura Soba, Macha Soba and Wanko Soba.
Tempura Soba is also known as Tensoba. Tensoba can either be served as a hot soup or as a cold Soba dish. It is either topped with Tempura fried shrimp or fried fish cake. Matcha soba is famous in Uji, located south of Kyoto. The city is famous for matcha tea. Matcha soba is made by mixing buckwheat with matcha tea powder that gives a tea colour to the noodle. Matcha noodle is served with tsuyu as a dipping sauce. Wanko soba is famous in Iwate prefecture. It comes in a small noodle bowl. The bowl is continuously refilled till you are full.
Ramen, Udon and Soba noodles are made of different ingredients. The process of cooking these noodles also differs from each other. The manner in which these noodles are served and the taste of these noodles are also different. It is impossible to say which of these noodles taste better. They are all unique and have their own taste.