Ramen vs. Udon: 15 Crucial Differences Everyone Should Know


Do you know the difference between ramen and udon?

Ramen looks like this...

Udon looks like this...


In this blog post, I will explain what ramen and udon are in detail and answer these questions below.
 

1. What do ramen and udon taste like?

 

i. The taste of ramen...

The flavorful meat and vegetable broth brims with umami into your mouth. 
 
It gives the broth a delicious and intricate taste.
 
And ramen noodles have a nice chew, smoothness and overall flavor.
 

The ramen nooldes are submerged in a meaty and tasty ramen broth - this
 
combination works so well together.
 
Ramen toppings are characteristics of ramen too.
 
Tender-roasted juicy chashu, soft and creamy ramen eggs, etc..
  


ii. The taste of udon... 


Udon soup has a delicate flavor. It is light and mild but still very savory.
 
The characteristic seafood broth goes really well with udon noodles, green onions, an egg yolk, and kamaboko fish cake.

Udon noodles are springy and bouncy.
 
Because it is simple, you will not be able to stop at just one bowl.
 

I will explain the differences between ramen and udon in detail.
 
Keep reading and you will find out...

 
2. What are the differences between ramen and udon noodles?

 
i. Thickness of ramen noodles and udon noodles is different.

 
Ramen noodles are thinner than udon noodles.
 

There is a variety of ramen noodle thickness, which depends on the style and origin of the bowl of ramen.
 
Very thick
2.5mm (0.098 in) Kitakata Ramen (Fukushima)
2.2mm (0.087 in) Sano Ramen (Tochigi), Kitakata Ramen (Fukushima)
 
Thick
1.875mm(0.074 in) Shirakawa Ramen (Fukushima)
1.7mm (0.066 in) Shirakawa Ramen (Fukushima), soba
 
Standard
1.5mm (0.059 in) soba
 
Thin
1.4mm(0.055 in) Sapporo Ramen (Hokkaido), soba
1.25mm (0.049 in) Tokyo Ramen, Asahikawa (Hokkaido) Ramen
1.15mm (0.045 in) Hakata Ramen (Fukuoka), Kumamoto Ramen, somen
 
Very thin
1.1mm(0.043 in) Hakata Ramen (Fukuoka), somen
 

If you want to learn about ramen noodles, click here
 
Udon noodles are always very thick compared to ramen noodles.
 
There are 3 thicknesses for udon noodles.
 
Thick
4.0 x 5.1 mm (0.157 x 0.200 in)
 
Standard
3.1 x 4.5 mm (0.122 x 0.177 in)
 
Thin
2.6 x 3.0 mm (0.102 x 0.118 in)

 
ii. Ingredients are different

 
Ramen noodles are made of kansui (an alkaline solution) and milled flour.
 
Udon noodles are made of water, salt, and milled flour.
 
Kansui makes noodles...

 
1. Yellow,
2. Chewy, and
3. Gives it its distinct ramen noodle flavor.

 

1. Because of kansui, the color of ramen and udon noodles are different...

 
Ramen noodles have a yellowish color.
 
Kansui and flour produce a yellow organic compound called chalcone when they are mixed together.
 
This is the cause of the yellowish color of ramen noodles.
 

Udon noodles are white in color because that is the original color of milled flour.

2. Because of kansui, the texture of ramen and udon noodles are different...

 
Ramen noodles are stretchy and have a chewy texture.
 
Kansui changes the structure of gluten and noodles, which is where it gets its distinct texture.  

 
Udon noodles are flexible, springy, bouncy, gummy and sticky.
 
Do you know how udon chefs give the noodles this texture?
 
The answer is...
 
Forming gluten structure.

The inside of a well-made udon noodle comprises a mesh-like structure made of gluten, and the structure covers starch.
 
In order to make this structure,
 
Chefs need to pick the best flour, while being careful of the water addition rate and the amount of salt.
 
They put a lot of effort into mixing, stepping on, and resting the dough.
 
Unlike ramen noodles, udon noodles need to be cooled down before serving.
Chefs put udon noodles in a cold water bath.
 
It doesn’t matter if these noodles will be served hot or cold.
 
You must wash your boiled noodles in cold water.
 
After cooling down the udon noodles, chefs pour hot soup on top of udon to serve hot udon.
 
Do you know the reason why chefs cool the udon noodles down?

There are two reasons.
 
Reason Number 1: You can prevent the udon noodles from getting soggy.
 
If you don't cool the noodles down completely, the noodles will become over cooked.
 
That means udon noodles lose their springiness and bounciness.
 
Reason Number 2: You can get rid of the stickiness of udon noodles.
 
Udon noodles tend to have a sticky surface because of starch.
 
Starch comes out of noodles while you are boiling it.
 
If it is too sticky, the noodles will get stuck to each other.
 
That is why you wash udon noodles in cold water.

3. Because of kansui, the flavor of ramen and udon noodles are different...

 
Do you know the reason why ramen has a distinct flavor?
 
The answer is...
 
When you mix kansui and flour, a little tiny bit of ammonia is created.
 
Actually, it is the flavor of ramen noodles.
 
A lot of ammonia smells really bad, but a low concentration of ammonia is what gives ramen its distinct good smell.
 
(The amount of ammonia is very little so it won't have any adverse impact on your body)
 
Udon noodles don't require any kansui to make, so udon noodles smell of flour.

 
iii. Ramen noodles are wavy or straight and udon noodles are always straight.

 
1. Ramen noodles are straight or wavy

 
Straight noodles are commonly used for thin noodles like Kyushu-style tonkotsu ramen.
 
 
Curvy noodles are commonly used for thick noodles.
 
 
For thick noodles, in order to create an optimal surface area to volume ratio,
 
Chefs make the noodles wavy so that it can hold and keep more soup on the surface of the noodles.

 
2. Udon noodles are straight

 
Quickly slurping straight udon noodles gives a nice mouthfeel.
 
It is very addicting.

 
3. Shapes of cross-sections are important too

 
Did you know?
 
There are square cross-sections and rectangular cross-sections too.
 
Ramen noodles have various cross-sections and udon noodles always have short rectangular cross-sections. 
 
Square: Tend to absorb more soup
Rectangular: Goes well with simple soup taste, like shio or shoyu ramen
Rectangular (vertical): Noodles in this formation absorbs the most soup
Rectangular (horizontal): Used for flat noodles as they have a smooth surface
Circular: They have a smooth texture. Used for noodles like somen or spaghetti
 

 

3. How is the broth used for ramen different from the broth used for udon?

 
i. 4 Basic Types of Ramen Soup

 
Ramen broth is made up of water and a combination of pork bone, beef bone, chicken, bonito, dried sardines, konbu (kelp), mushroom, or scallops.
 
Ramen soup has 4 primary types. Shoyu ramen, miso ramen, tonkotsu ramen and shio ramen.
 
Take a look...

 
1. Shoyu Ramen:

Shoyu ramen consists of broth, sauce, flavored oil, noodles, and toppings. 

The sauce is made up of mainly soy sauce and some other ingredients. 
 
This is how this ramen got its name (shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese).
 
Shoyu ramen is a light soup broth, which is a nostalgic and familiar taste for Japanese people.
 
Because of this, shoyu is the prototype for the different types of ramen in Japan.
 
It is usually made from chicken or pork broth. 
 
Sometimes, this soup stock, made up of various vegetables, konbu (kelp), or niboshi (dried sardines), is added to the broth to give depth to the flavour of the soup.
 
Common toppings for shoyu-based ramen are menma (sliced bamboo shoots), chashu (braised pork slices), green onion, and nori (dried seaweed).

 

Do you want to know more about shoyu ramen?
Click here

 
2. Miso Ramen:

 
Miso ramen has a rich and thick flavor of miso. The broth of miso ramen is made of vegetable and pork-bone.
 
And miso ramen has thick wavy noodles.
 
Common toppings for miso ramen are menma, chashu, fried vegetables (ex. beansprout, cabbage), corn bits, and butter.
 
(If pork and vegetable are fried together, there is no chashu)
 
Miso is made from fermented soybeans, rice (or wheat with salt) and koji, which is an organism that helps the soybeans ferment.
 
The completed end-product of miso is usually in a paste form, which looks a little bit like peanut butter.


Do you want to know more about miso ramen?
Click here

  
3. Tonkotsu Ramen 

Tonkotsu means pork bone in Japanese.
 
Because pork bones are boiled for long hours in high heat and components of the bone is melted into the soup,
 
The resulting soup of tonkotsu ramen is very rich, thick, and cloudy.
 
This soup contains a lot of umami. This is due to the inosinic acid from the bones.
 
And fat and gelatin from the bones give the broth its distinctive taste.
Noodles of tonkotsu ramen are usually very thin.
 
Toppings of this ramen are quite simple - usually, green onion, chashu sesame, ginger, garlic, and karashi takana are used as a pairing to this type of ramen.

 

Do you want to know more about tonkotsu ramen?
Click here  

 
4. Shio Ramen: 

Shio ramen is generally lighter in taste and color than its shoyu and miso ramen counterparts.
 
Shio is Japanese for salt.
 
One of the characteristics of this broth is a transparent soup base.
 
Broth for shio ramen is made of chicken bone or porkbone.
 
But in order to keep the broth transparent, you can't boil these bones at high heat.
 
A lot of the time, chefs use medium thick noodles with this shio ramen.
 
Toppings of shio ramen are ajitama, chashu, green onions, and menma.

 

Do you want to know more about shio ramen?
Click here
 

ii. 2 Basic types of udon broth

 
Udon has 2 primary types. Kanto-style udon and Kansai-style udon.
 
They are names of regions. Kanto region is in the east part of Japan and the capital of Japan, Tokyo, is located there.
 
And Kansai region is in the west part of Japan and Osaka and Kyoto are located there. 

 
1. Soup of Kanto-style udon soup is saltier and has a brown color. 


The reason why Kanto-style is saltier is you use dark soy sauce when you make this region’s udon soup.
 
Kelp and bonito are used for this soup stock, but the taste of bonito is very distinctive for Kanto-style soup. 
 
In the Kanto region, people call this soup "tare"(たれ).
 
Tare means sauce in Japanese.

 
2. The soup of Kansai-style udon is less salty and has a light yellow color. 

 

It is said that Kansai-style udon soup is thin. People there want to taste the soup stock more than the soy sauce.
 
You use light soy sauce in order to make Kansai-style soup.
 
Soy sauce for Kansai-style is for only adding a little bit of flavor.
 
And since you only use a little bit of soy sauce, the soup is transparent.
 
Bonito, dried sardines, and kelp are used for its soup stock.
 
In the Kansai region, people call this soup "dashi"(だし).
 
Dashi means soup stock in Japanese.
 
Kanto and Kansai have different feelings about udon,
 
So that the language used to describe the soup of the udon is different. 

 

 

4. Do ramen and udon both use flavored oil?

Ramen uses flavored oil called koumiyu, but udon doesn't use flavored oil.
 
Do you know why flavored oil is in ramen?
 
The answer is...
 
Seasoning oil gives ramen its flavor.
 
In addition, using koumiyu keeps the ramen hot because it covers the surface of the soup, trapping the heat inside.
 
Some types of koumiyu include chicken oil, pork fatback, and bonito oil.

 
 
5. Ramen vs. Udon: What are the differences of their toppings? 

Styles of toppings are different from ramen and udon.

 
i. Ramen toppings are...

 
Chashu

Ajitama

Negi

Menma

Nori

Naruto

Do you want to know more about ramen toppings?
Click here

 
ii. Udon toppings are...

  
Eggs


Negi

Sliced beef
Kamaboko

Tempura

Aburaage

Wakame

Yummy!


6. What about the origins and development of ramen and udon?

 

i. Modern ramen was invented in late 19th century

The (approximate) years these other ramen favourites were created goes something like this (from oldest to newest)...
 
Shio Ramen: 1884
Shoyu Ramen: 1910
Tonkotsu Ramen: 1947
Miso Ramen: 1955
 

And the important moment of ramen was the opening of Rairaiken in Asakusa, Tokyo in 1910.

 
ii. The origin of ramen is from Chinese noodles

 

There are a few theories on the oldest record of Chinese noodles in Japan is...
 
In 1697, Zhu Zhiyu treated his home town noodles to Tokugawa Mitsukuni.
 
Zhu Zhiyu was a scholar of Confucianism from the Ming dynasty and Edo Japan.
 
And Tokugawa Mitsukuni was the feudal lord of Mito, Japan.
 
Or...
 
In 1488, a Japanese monk made noodles using Chinese recipe and treated his visitor.
 
However, ramen couldn't be popular in Japan until the 19th century. 


ii. There are a lot of mysteries about origin of udon  

Udon got its distinctive long strip shape in the Edo period(1603 - 1868).
 
Did you know?
 
Before the Edo period, udon had a flat circular shape.
 
Then, when did people start making circular-shaped udon?

 
Theory 1: A Japanese buddhist monk Kukai brought the circular-shaped udon from the Tang dynasty in China

 

Kukai went to study in China in 804 when he was 31 years old.
 
In 806, he brought either a recipe of udon, flour, or Chinese sweets to Japan.

 
Theory 2: An old Japanese sweet called konton turned into udon

Konton is an old traditional snack that has sweet stuffing inside the dough.
 
Konton and udon are both made of flour.
 
There is a theory that konton is the origin of udon.
 
And the name has changed like this...
 
Konto --> Unton --> Udon

 

Theory 3: A Japanese buddhist monk Enni brought udon from the Song dynasty in China


In this theory, in 1241, Enni brought technology of milling to Japan and spread the food culture of using flour.
 
There is a stele reading, "This is the place of the origin of udon and soba" at his temple in Fukuoka.

 
 
7. What do ramen restaurants and udon restaurants look like?

Can you tell the difference between a ramen shop and an udon shop?
 
A ramen shop looks like this...
 

Ramen restaurants are usually on the first floor of commercial buildings.
A red noren is commonly used.
 
(Noren is a traditional fabric divider that is hung in front of the entrance of a restaurant)

Usually, there is a standing sign on the street.
 
It shows pictures of the shop’s ramen.
 
The outlook of the ramen shop stands out in the city.
  
And udon shops look like this...

Udon restaurants tend to operate their business in a traditional Jaapnese-style building.
 
Brown wooden building with black tile roof.
 
A noren at an udon shop usually has a neutral color like white or black.

It is very calm and quiet-looking.

8. Is there a price difference between ramen and udon? 

Yes, there is a price difference between the two.
 
Usually, ramen is around 800 yen ($8 USD) and udon is 500 yen ($5 USD) in Japan.
 
Do you know why?
 
Because making ramen broth costs more.
 
You need more ingredients for ramen broth.
 
And you need to boil the ingredient for a much longer time in order to make the ramen broth, so that gas costs more.


9. Do you know how to order ramen and udon? 

i. How to Order Ramen

 
1. Vending Machine: 

 
Have you ever seen ticket machines located in the front of ramen restaurants?
 
You use this machine to buy a ticket for ramen and toppings.

 


After you are seated, you hand the ticket to the chef and they will start preparing your order.

 
2. At a cashier

 
After sitting down at the counter, talk to the chef directly to place your order.
  
In this case, you pay at the register after you eat.
 
If they slip you a receipt while you are eating, bring it to the register too.

ii. How to Order Udon

 

1. How to order at a self-service udon restaurant?

 
This kind of self service restaurant is usually quite inexpensive. 
 
You can pick your favourite udon toppings by yourself.
 
Here is how…
 
1 Say how much udon you want to eat at the entrance. You will get udon noodles and a bowl there.(The counter of udon is “tama”. One tama is one serving.)
2 Pick your udon toppings by yourself and put it on a dish.
3 Finish the payment.
4 Heat up the udon in a boiling pot.
5 There is soup in a big pot. Pour soup on your udon.
6 Put seasoning on.
7 Eat it at the table.
8 Put the bowl and other utensils back to the return table.
 
*There are semi-self udon restaurants too.
 
At a semi-self udon restaurant, chefs heat noodles up and pour soup for you.
 


2. At a cashier

You can pay the same way as a ramen shop that has a cashier.
 

10. What are variations of ramen and udon?

  
Based on their soup base, there are 4 primary types of ramen and 2 primary types of udon.
 
However, you can divide these types into smaller groups by region.

 
i. Variations of ramen by region 

There are a lot of variations of ramen. Take a look…

 
Shio Ramen

Hakodate Ramen (Hakodate, Hokkaido)
hakodate ramen apex sk bowl shio
In 1884, a ramen restaurant called “Youwaken” in Hakodate published an advertisement in the newspaper.
 
This is the first time ramen was ever served at a restaurant.
 
Since Hakodate was a port city, there were many foreigners including Chinese merchants who came to Japan to look for konbu (kelp) and other seafood.
 
Youwaken’s main customer base were these Chinese merchants.
 
For that reason, the root of Hakodate ramen is salt-based soup noodles which were created to cater to these Chinese merchants’ taste preference.
 
Soup: Transparent salt-base soup
Noodles: Medium thick straight
Toppings: Chashu, menma, and green onions
 
Churashio Ramen (Okinawa)

 
In Okinawa, soki soba is the local soul food there, but ramen has been getting popular.

 
Characteristics of churashio ramen are...

 
Soup: Salt-based soup made by combining seafood and pork bone broth and Okinawan salt
Noodles: Medium thick straight
Toppings: Konbu, soki (stewed pork spare ribs), and eggs marinated with turmeric  

Shoyu Ramen 

Asahikawa Ramen (Asahikawa Hokkaido)

The most distinctive characteristic of Asahikawa ramen is its "double soup" and its "oil slick” floating on top of the ramen broth.
 
"Double soup" in terms of ramen means using two different kinds of broth. 
 
One broth is made from pork, chicken, and beef bone or meat, and the other is seafood broth made from ingredients like konbu or bonito.
 
The next characteristic of Asahikawa ramen is the oil slick on top of the ramen soup. 
 
In the winter, Asahikawa city can reach temperature lows of -30C (-22F)!
 
In order to prevent the soup from getting cold, chefs put lard on the soup.
  
This traps the steam inside the soup and keeps the soup piping hot. 
 
Soup: Double soup
Noodles: Wavy middle thick noodles are used in Asahikawa ramen
Toppings: Green onion, menma, and chashu

Kitakata Ramen (Kitakata Fukushima)
 

The most distinct characteristic of Kitakata ramen is its noodles. It is very thick, flat and wavy.
 
Water content ratio of this noodles is high, so they are both chewy, and smooth.
 
Broth is made of transparent pork bone, and it is very simple.
 
Some restaurants make transparent pork bone broth and dried sardine broth separately and pour it into the bowl together right before a bowl of ramen is served. 
 
Soup: Pork bone and dried sardine
Noodles: Very thick wavy noodles
Toppings: chashu or kakuni, menma, naruto, and green onion
 
Tokyo Ramen (Tokyo)
tokyo ramen apex sk ramen bowl

Tokyo ramen is considered the orthodox ramen. 
 
In 1910, a bowl of ramen was created at Rairaiken. 
 
It was a fusion creation between Chinese cuisine and Japanese cuisine.
 
This is the first shoyu ramen.
 
And it is also known as Tokyo ramen.
 
Soup: Chicken bone, pork bone, dried sardines, and some vegetables. The broth never come to a boil in order to maintain its clear color.
Noodles: Medium thick and wavy
Toppings: chashu, menma, green onion, a boiled egg, and nori (dried Japanese seaweed)

 

Tonkotsu Ramen 

 
Hakata / Nagahama Ramen (Hakata / Nagahama Fukuoka) 


Hakata ramen originated in 1941.
 
A street stall called “Sanbaro" is the original creators of the Hakata ramen.
 
You will see that noodles at Hakata and Nagahama ramen restaurants are very thin and you can choose the hardness of the noodles from 6 varying levels.
 
Soup: Thick Pork bone flavor
Noodles: Very thin straight 
Toppings: Chashu and green onions
 
Kurume Ramen (Kurume Fukuoka)
 

It is first served in 1937 at Nankinsenryo. Kurume ramen is the root of all tonkotsu ramen in Kyushu including Hakata ramen.
 
Kurume ramen has a richer and more unique taste than Hakata ramen since new broth is added into the original boiling pot of soup.
 
Some restaurants have been boiling the same pot for half a century.
 
Amount of oil in the soup is a lot less than Hakata ramen, so you can drink the soup in its entirety.
 
Ramen noodles contain more water than regular noodles, so the soup soaks into the noodles easily.
 
Kurume people prefer to eat softer noodles.
 
Soup: Thick taste and rich pork bone flavour
Noodles: Thin and straight
Toppings: Chashu, green onion, kikurage, seaweed, garlic chips, grated garlic, black pepper, and ginger
 
Kumamoto Ramen (Kumamoto)

Kumamoto ramen was developed in the 50's.
 
Of course, broth is made from tonkotsu, but torigara (chicken bone) is also used, so it is milder and creamier than Hakata ramen.
 
There is no pork smell from the tonkotsu in the broth, unlike Kurume ramen, since they make broth from scratch everyday. 
 
These medium thick noodles pair well with fried garlic and mayu (special oil made from garlic).
 
The creamy soup helps boost your appetite.
 
Soup: Pork bone and chicken bone
Noodles: medium thick
Toppings: Mayu, chashu, and kikurage

 

Miso Ramen


Sapporo Ramen (Sapporo, Hokkaido)

Sapporo ramen is characterized by wavy and thick noodles paired with a thick broth and a little bit of ginger and garlic flavor. 
 
The soup is made of pork bone.
 
Toppings are green onion, bean sprout, menma, and chashu or ground pork.
 
A specialty of Sapporo ramen is that a lot of restaurants allow customers to customize their ramen toppings, for example, corn, butter, crab, and scallops.
 
Soup: Pork bone
Noodles: Wavy and thick noodles
Toppings: green onion, bean sprout, menma, and chashu or ground pork
 

Nigata Nouko Miso Ramen (Nigata)

This region’s miso ramen specialty features very thick noodles in a thick, rich soup. 
 
Pork bone broth and red miso makes this soup so creamy and rich. 
 
Customers can adjust the thickness of their soup by thinning it out with a bowl of broth (which is served up separately). 
 
There are a lot of vegetables and ground pork as toppings to these noodles. 
 
The noodles are also very thick (almost like udon), so customers can be really full after eating it.
 
Soup: Thick and rich pork bone broth and red miso
Noodles: Very thick
Toppings:  Vegetables and ground pork
 

 
ii. There are other variations of ramen

 
1. Chashumen
chashu men apex sk illustration

Basically, chashumen is a bowl of shoyu ramen that has a lot of chashu on it.
 
It depends on the thickness of the chashu, but usually chashumen has more than five slices of chashu.
 
However, if the ramen shops don’t serve shoyu ramen, then chashumen is a dish that has a lot of chashu on their primary ramen.
 
Example:
For tonkotsu ramen shops, chashumen is a bowl of tonkotsu ramen that has a lot of chashu.
 
Soup: Chicken bone broth
Noodles: Medium thick and wavy
Toppings: Chashu
 

 
2. Tsukemen

Tsukemen is a type of ramen that you dip your noodles in.
 
Noodles and soup are served in a separated dish and a bowl.
 
The recipe of tsukemen is not that different from the ramen recipe.
 
But the important difference is the chef needs to wash the ramen noodles in cold water after cooking.
 
So chefs have to do the same thing as udon.
 
Fascination of tsukemen is in its noodles. You can feel fresh flavour and taste of flour directly from the noodles.
 
And you can feel a good chew and bounce.
 
For that reason, noodles for tsukemen are middle thick to very thick.
 
Usually, it is more expensive than regular ramen. Here are reasons why…
 
1 Portion of noodles is larger than regular ramen.
2 It takes time to boil since noodles are thicker than regular ones.
3 You need to wash noodles, so chefs need extra work.
 
Pro tip:
You shouldn’t soak tsukemen noodles in the soup too long.
 
The noodles will make your soup really cold. 
 
If you want to keep your soup hot, pick up a few noodles (portion of one bite) from the dish and dip them into the soup and eat them quickly.
 
Soup: Very thick and strong taste (Sometimes fish meal is served with soup)
Noodles:  Middle thick to very thick.
Toppings: Chashu, nori, ajitama

 


3. Aburasoba

Aburasoba is a noodle dish that is similar to ramen.
 
It is ramen without soup. There is sesame oil or sauce in the bottom of the bowl.
And you eat the noodles with chilli oil and vinegar.
 
Soup: No soup
Noodles:  Middle thick to very thick.
Toppings: Chashu, narutomaki, bean sprout, nori, onsen tamago
 

 
iii. Variations of udon by region

 
The most famous region of udon is Kagawa prefecture.
 
However, there are a lot more variations of udon in different places. 
 
Of course, the taste of udon is different and how people eat udon is different too!
Take a look…
 

1. Mizusawa Udon (Shibukawa, Gunma)

mizusawa udon apex sk illustration


Specialty of Ikaho hot spring in Gunma prefecture. 
 
400 years ago, Mizusawa temple treated udon to its pilgrim.
 
It was the beginning of Mizusawa udon.
 
You eat this udon cold.
 
Mizusawa udon noodles have a nice slippery texture and good bouncy chew.
 
They are thicker than regular udon.
 
Flour, salt, and the spring water around there is used for the noodles.
 
Soup: Konbu (kelp) and Bonito
Noodles: Thick
Toppings: Shitake mushroom, spinach, cucumber

 
2. Inaniwa Udon (Nanbu, Akita)

inaniwa udon apex sk bowl


Inaniwa udon is a dried thin hand-stretched noodle.
 
Very smooth and refreshing.
 
There is air inside of the noodles.
 
Because you twist the noodles while you are pulling noodles, there are bubbles inside of the udon noodles.
 
This udon noodles are only 2 to 3mm width. (0.078 to 0.118 in)
 
They are very thin as udon.
 
There are a lot of processes when making Inaniwa udon.
 
Mixing, kneading, stretching, and drying.
 
Because of that, it was considered a luxurious food and only the lord or nobility could eat Inaniwa udon in the past.
 
You boil them for 3 minutes and the noodles will become translucent.

You then cool them down in iced cold water.
 
Soup: Kelp and bonito
Noodles: Thin
Toppings: Green onions, Mitsuba, wasabi

 
3. Ise Udon (Ise, Mie)

ise udon apex sk


Have you heard of The Ise Grand Shrine?
 
The Ise Grand Shrine is a very important shrine of Shinto religion.
 
So, this shrine has a lot of worshipers.
 
And Ise udon is a famous food for Ise pilgrims.
 
You eat Ise udon with sauce, not with soup.
 
You cover the noodles well with the sauce. 
 
The sauce is made of soy sauce and dashi stock of bonito, konbu, or iriko.
 
This sauce looks very salty but it is not.
 
It is very thick and has a lot of umami and sweetness in it, but you don’t drink it as soup since it is too thick and little.
 
Noodles of Ise udon are 1cm (0.4 in) width. It is very thick, right?
 
Since they are so thick, chefs boil the noodles for 50 minutes. (Regular udon’s cooking time is 15 minutes)
 
They turn out very soft.
 
The surface of the noodles is fluffy and the core is soft but still chewy and squishy.
Do you know why Ise udon is like this?
 
The answer is…
 
There are so many worshippers going to the shrine.
 
Udon shops near the Ise Grand Shrine keep boiling noodles, so they can serve udon very fast.
 
And there is no soup in the bowl so that customers can eat quickly and go visit the shrine.
 
Soup: No soup. Instead served with thick sauce
Noodles: Very thick and soft
Toppings: Green onions

 
4.Sanuki Udon (Kagawa)

sanuki udon apex sk


Sanuki is the most famous place for udon.
 
Do you know why it is called Sanuki udon?
 
Because Sanuki is the old name for Kagawa prefecture. 
 
People in Kagawa eat udon the most.
 
There are a lot of udon shops out there, so the density of udon shops are really high.
 
In Japan, there are a lot of convenience stores.
 
Kagawa has a lot of them too.
 
However, they have 3 times more udon restaurants than convenience stores.
 
Amount of convenience stores in Kagawa: 300
 
Amount of udon restaurants in Kagawa: 900
 
It depends on the menu, but the price of sanuki udon is usually inexpensive.
 
Do you know why udon is popular in Kagawa?
 
It is because of its climate.
 
Kagawa doesn’t have a lot of rain. 
 
In the past, people were struggling to make rice since it needs a lot of water.
 
For that reason, people have grown wheat instead of rice there.
 
And they have developed their udon noodles.
 
Do you know? Sanuki udon chefs attach importance to the noodles’ chewiness.
 
This is how to make udon noodles chewy…
 
1.Chefs put a lot of pressure on the dough while they are kneading noodles by stepping on the dough or using a machine.
 
2.High water addition noodles.
 
3.Adding salt water.
 
Soup: Iriko(sardine) and konbu
Noodles: Glossy, translucent, smooth, and chewy
Toppings: Green onions, crunchy bits


5. Maruten Udon (Hakata, Fukuoka)

maruten udon apex sk bowl   


Maruten is a udon topping in Northern Kyushu.
 
It is a round and flat-shaped fried fish cake.

 
Can you guess why it has a round shape?
 
Answer is…
 
Maruten is made specifically for udon.  So the circular shape fits in the udon bowl perfectly.
 
Noodles are soft and sticky. They are not chewy at all.
Soup: Ichiko(sardine) saba, tobiuo, konbu, and sweet soy sauce
Noodles: Soft and sticky
Toppings: Maruten, green onion

 
6.Houtou (Yamanashi)

houtou apex sk bowl


Houtou is a miso-soup based cuisine that has flat udon noodles, pumpkins, potatoes, mushrooms and meat in it.
 
The powerful Japanese feudal lord, Takeda Shingen, picked houtou for field rations in the Warring States period.
 
Houtou is good for digestion and has a lot of nutrition.
 
So it was perfect for the battle field.
 
Soup: Miso
Noodles: Flat 
Toppings: Pumpkins, potatoes, mushrooms and meat

 


7.Misonikomi Udon (Nagoya, Aichi)

misonikomi udon apex sk

 
It is udon noodles inside miso soup.
 
You use deep brown miso called haccho miso in order to make the soup of misonikomi udon.
 
It is always served in a cray pot, so you can keep your misonikomi udon hot for a long time.
 
Noodles for misonikomi udon are really thick and hard.
 
They are served al dente.
 
You don’t use salt when you make noodles, so these noodles don’t have bounce and chewiness as much as other udon noodles.
 
It is said houtou is the origin or misonikomi udon.
 
Soup: Miso
Noodles: Thick and al dente
Toppings: Eggs, Kamaboko, green onions, meat, and fried tofu

 
iiii. Other variations of udon

 
1. Curry udon
curry udon apex sk


It is a type of udon where you add some curry powder into udon soup stock. It is also called curry nanban.
 
Soup: Curry and udon soup stock
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Green onions, carrots, potatoes and meat.


2. Kake udon



“Kake” means “to pour” in Japanese.

 
You can make kakeudon by pouring hot soup on udon noodles in a bowl.

 
Green onion is the only topping for kake udon.

 
In kansai area, kake udon is called “”suudon”.

 
“Su” means “as it is” 

 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular
Toppings: Chopped green onions


3. Yaki udon

yakiudon apex sk
It is fried udon. You fry udon, meat and vegetable and put taste with some seasoning or sauce.
 
Origin of yaki udon is in Kokura, Fukuoka.
 
Right after the Second World War, there was a food shortage.
 
A chef wanted to make yakisoba but he couldn’t get noodles for yakisoba.
He used udon noodles instead.
 
It became a popular menu item, and it spread around Japan.
 
Soup: None
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Cabbage, pork belly, carrots, bean sprouts


4. Kitsune udon
kitsune udon apex sk


It is a type of udon noodles that has a sweet fried tofu on the noodles as a topping.
 
“Kitsune” means a fox in Japanese.
 
Fox is a good luck animal in Japan especially in business.
 
People believed that a fox can bring prosperity to their business.
 
And also people believed that fried tofu is the fox’s favourite food.
 
So fried tofu is called kitusne.
 
That is why this dish is called kitsune udon.
 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Fried tofu, green onions   

5. Tanuki udon
tanuki udon apex sk

It is a udon dish that has bits of fried tempura batter on the noodles as toppings.
 
“Tanuki” is a raccoon in Japanese.
 
You might think…
 
That means a racoon like bits of fried tempura batter?
 
I don’t know about that.
 
But the name “tanuki” didn’t come from the animal.
 
It is the short form of “Tanenuki”.
 
“Tane” means inside or stuffing.
 
And “nuki” means without.
 
Bits of fried tempura batter don’t have anything inside but butter, right?
 
So tanuki means bits of fried tempura batter.
 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Bits of fried tempura batter

 
6. Tempura udon
tempura udon illustration apex sk


It is a type of udon that has tempura as a topping.
 
Usually a shrimp tempura is in a bowl of udon.
 
If the tempura is mixed-vegetable, then it is called kakiage udon.
 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Shrimp


7. Zaru udon
zaru udon apex sk


It is cold udon noodles. Usually it is served on a bamboo tray.
 
You dip these udon noodles in a dipping sauce and eat it.
 
It is also called mori udon.
 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Nori seaweed


8. Tororo udon / Yamakake udon
yamakake tororo udon apex sk illustration


You put grated Japanese mountain yam on top of udon noodles.
 
There is a hot and cold variation.
 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Mountain yam


9. Tsukimi udon
tsukimi udon illustration apex sk


This is a type of udon that has egg on udon noodles.
 
Tsukimi means moon-viewing.
 
The egg yolk looks like a full moon. That is why it got this name.
 
Soup: Bonito, soy sauce, sake, mirin
Noodles: Regular udon
Toppings: Raw egg


11. Which one is more popular: ramen or udon?

i. Ramen is more popular than udon


There are 3 times more google search for ramen.
 
And if you see the number of ramen restaurants in Japan,
 
There are around 30,600 restaurants.
 
Number of udon restaurants in Japan is 24,000.
 
But both noodles are loved by Japanese people. 

 
ii. People think ramen is better because...

  • They like the soup to be thick and salty.

  • Ramen soup covers the noodles better.

  • They like to eat something complicated.

  • There are more soup variations than udon.
  • They feel like eating ramen when they are tired.

iii. People think udon is better because...

  • They like to enjoy the chewiness of the noodles.
  • There are hot and cold udon.
  • It is nice for your stomach.
  • They like to eat something simple.
  • Udon is inexpensive.

 

12. Which one is healthiest, udon or ramen?

i. The answer is...

Udon.

 

Udon noodles are good for digestion.
 
In Japan, udon is a weaning food.
 
Here are calories of each noodles:
Shoyu ramen 470 calories
Kake Udon 320 calories
 
Of course it depends on topping, but udon has almost no oil in the soup.
 
Ramen noodles are not great for digestion as much as udon noodles are.
 
When you feel a little bloated and full, but are considering eating either ramen or udon,
 
Pick udon.
 
If you want to know about ramen calories, click here.
How Many Calories are in My Ramen?


 
13. Can I use udon noodles for ramen?


I have never heard of it but you can do it.
 
There is no law that prohibits using udon noodles with ramen soup, but no restaurant does it.
 
Probably I should review this ramen udon later…
 


Listen:
 
There is udon ramen in Tottori Prefecture.
 
It is called “suramen”.
 
This is a dish that you use ramen noodles in udon soup.
 
Except for the ramen noodles, it is actually an udon dish.
 
Soup is udon soup, toppings are for udon: kamaboko, bits of deep-fried tempura batter, and green onions.
 
Actually it is not popular at all.
 
There are only a few restaurants that serve this suramen.

 
14. Are there different manners for eating ramen and udon? 

No, there is no difference between ramen and udon in terms of manners.

 
i. But the sound of slurping is different.


When you slurp ramen, it sounds like…
 
Zuuuuu zuuuu…..(loud)
 
When you slurp udon, it sounds like…
 
Zozo zozo…..(Quiet)
 
When people eat udon, they tend to eat less noisily.
 
The culture of slurping noodles came from eastern Japan.
 
Since udon was developed in western Japan, you don’t slurp udon as much as ramen.

 
ii. Why do the Japanese slurp noodles? 

 
1. You can prevent noodles from getting soggy and soup from getting cold. 

If you slurp, you can eat noodles quickly, so you can enjoy its chewiness.
 
In addition, it is rude to the chef to not eat food as soon as it is served to you.


 
2. You can enjoy the flavour of noodles more

You can enjoy the flavor of ramen at least 4 times more if you slurp.
 
Having a combination of air, noodles and soup together allows you to feel more flavor in your mouth.

 
3. You don't want to bite off excess noodles

Japanese people find it disgusting to bite off excess noodles and for the excess pieces to go back into the soup bowl.
 
That is why slurping is preferred because you can bring all the noodles into your mouth at once. 
  
 
Here is how to eat ramen:
Chopsticks Etiquette to Eat Ramen Like a Pro 

 
15. How are they sold for home cooking?

 
i. Ramen noodles are sold in a dried state

 
 
You can get instant noodles in all the supermarkets or grocery stores in North America.
 
They are usually dried, and it takes only 3 minutes to cook.
 
It is very convenient.
 
Do you want to know more about instant noodles?
 
Where Did Instant Noodles Come From?

 
How Do You Cook Ramen? Easy Simple Tricks How to Boil Them Better


ii. Udon noodles are sold in a frozen state 

There are dried udon noodles.
 
However, it takes around 15 minutes to boil it. It takes a lot of time compared to instant ramen right?
 
What about frozen udon noodles?
 
It takes only 45 to 60 seconds.
 
You can use a microwave too.
 
Usually it takes 3 minutes to cook in a microwave(600W).
 
This is the reason why frozen udon is more common for people.
 
You can get frozen udon at Japanese, Korean, and Chinese supermarkets.

 

16. How to make ramen noodles

 
So, are you interested in making your own noodles at home by now?
 
Sounds difficult and impossible?
 
No, it is actually very SIMPLE!
 
Here's my go-to (egg-free) recipe:
 

Ingredients (for 6 bowls):
Wheat Flour 500g
Baking Soda 5g
Water 220cc
Salt 5g
Potato Starch* - As you see fit
 
Tools:
Rolling Pin
Knife
Cutting Board
Measuring Cup
Measuring Spoon
 
Directions:
1. Mix baking soda, salt, and water together
2. Mix flour with 80% of the liquid mixture you made in the previous step. Leave some of it for use later.
3. Wrap dough with a plastic wrap for 5 minutes
4. If the dough looks a little too dry, add the liquid from "step 1" little by little until it is the right consistency
5. Put the dough into a large plastic bag and step on it to make it flat.
6. Fold the dough and put it back in the plastic bag and continue stepping on it until it gets flat again. Repeat this step 3 times.
7. Roll the dough into a ball-shape and cover it up with a plastic wrap
8. Let it sit for one hour
9. Divide the dough ball into 6 equal portions. Using a rolling pin, flatten out each of the portions separately.
It may be a little hard at the beginning to roll it out. But as the dough becomes flatter, it becomes easier to roll it out.
10. Fold the sheet of dough into itself until it is 10cm in width. Be careful when folding, do not press too hard or the dough may stick together.
11. Cut the folded sheet of dough using a knife
TIP: Try to push your knife from the top against the sheet. Do not slide your knife.
12. Once cut, loosen the noodles a bit. If you want to make the noodles wavy, knead the noodles lightly.
Done
 
The potato starch in the recipe is to be powdered onto a wooden board before you start rolling out the dough.
 This powdery substance prevents noodles from sticking together.  


17. How to make udon noodles 

Here is the recipe for udon noodles!
 
Ingredients (for 6 bowls):
Wheat Flour 600g
Water 240cc
Salt 30g
Potato or Corn Starch - As you see fit
 
Tools:
Rolling Pin
Knife
Cutting Board
Measuring Cup
Measuring Spoon
A bowl
Plastic bag or plastic wrap
 
Directions:
1 Mix flour, salt, and water in a bowl. You might feel adding more water, but be patient. It will be a udon dough if you keep kneading.
2 Put in a plastic bag or plastic wrap.
3 Step on the dough and when it gets flat, fold it and step on the dough again. Continue this process for 20 minutes.
4 Rest the dough in a plastic bag or wrap in your fridge for 2 hours.
5 Use starch on a cutting board.
6 Make the dough flat and fold it.
7 Cut the dough even.
8 Sprinkle starch on the noodles to prevent the noodles stick together.
9 Boil it for 2 minute.
Done
 
Now that I’ve shared some ramen and udon noodles recipe with you, you should be confident in recreating a Japanese meal in the comfort of your own home!
 
You'll need the right bowls and utensils to help with that! Why don't you take a look at some of our favorites? We think you'll love them too!
 

About the Author

 

Kei is a self-proclaimed ramen lover, blog writer and founder of "Apex S.K. Japanese tableware".

"I am from Ibaraki, Japan.

Ramen is great! It can bring you a sense of happiness and satisfaction that no other food can. I have been eating ramen for 30 years.

If there is no ramen, my life would be miserable.

Ten years ago, I worked as an office worker. The job was really stressful - excessive working hours, low wages, unpaid overtime work, and constantly being yelled at by my boss.

I was new and alone, no girlfriend, no friends, and felt very lonely.

My only oasis was the ramen shop near the office. For me, the ramen chef there was literally an angel. I saw a halo on his head. (No joke)

Tonkotsu shoyu ramen was my all-time favorite. He made ramen with broth chock-full of umami flavor, nice chewy handmade noodles, and tender chashu.

My greatest dream is connect people with ramen through my blog. I want to share a lot of interesting and funny stories and ramen trivia with you.

Knowing more about ramen can help you appreciate your ramen and make it taste extra delicious."


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