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Udon: 5+ Secret Facts and Recipes for Even Better Tasting Udon


Udon noodles are springy and bouncy.

Udon soup has a delicate flavor.

It is light and mild but still very savory.

The characteristic of seafood broth goes really well with udon noodles, green onions, and kamaboko fish cake.

Because it is simple, you will not be able to stop at just one bowl.

Want to know more about udon? 

I will be your guide for udon because… 

1. I am Hagrid from udon academy

In the summer of 2019, my wife and I took a ferry to Shikoku Island. 

We had a road trip there. It was really hot there, 

And the AC in our small pink car was working so hard. 

And I had the best udon ever in Sanuki… 

2. Udon noodles are made of water, salt, and milled flour

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

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Udon toppings are eggs, green onions, sliced beef, kamaboko, tempura, aburaage, and wakame

Usually, a raw egg or onsen egg is served with udon

Onsen eggs have a silky egg white, and a solid but soft-boiled custard-like-yolk.

It is the opposite of soft boiled eggs.

Green onions are sprinkled on the noodles

This green color adds some good appearance to udon,

And they add some kick to your udon

Sliced beef with salty sweet taste goes well with udon

Simmer sliced beef with sugar, mirin, sake, and soy sauce.

It will make a great udon topping.

Using sliced pork is good too.

Kamaboko is a pink and white-colored fish cake

Kamaboko is a type of processed seafood created by steaming various pureed and deboned white fish with additives and flavorings.

The outcome is a firm loaf that is then sliced and added into udon.

Tempura gives you a rich feeling

Usually, we refer to shrimp tempura in this case.

We call a bowl of udon with shrimp tempura “tempura udon”.

If the tempura is mixed-vegetable, then it is called kakiage udon.

Aburaage is a sweet fried tofu

This aburaage absorbs the udon soup and when you bite it,

The taste of the soup and aburaage spreads to your mouth.

Wakame is a healthy veggie

This is seaweed full of minerals, fibers, and vitamins.

The fibers in wakame are really good for your gut.

And it is also good for your blood pressure.

Because the alginic acid in these fibers help to discharge cholesterol and natrium from your body.

8. Udon soup has a delicate flavor

It is light and mild but still very savory.

The base of the soup is made of either bonito, kelp broth, or both.

And you add some soy sauce, sake, and mirin.

Udon soup has a nice aroma too,

So it enhances the taste of udon noodles or other toppings.

Did you know this?

9. Udon soup has 3 primary types

They have their own characteristics of taste, color, and ingredients.

These 3 types were developed in different regions in Japan,

10. Kanto-style udon, Kansai-style udon, and Sanuki 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.

Kansai region is in the west part of Japan and Osaka and Kyoto are located there.

The Sanuki region is located on Shikoku Island. Actually,

Sanuki was a historical name of modern-day Kagawa Prefecture.

11. Basically, udon soup is made of soup stock, soy sauce, sake, and mirin

But the philosophy about soup stock makes a difference.

12. The soup of Kanto-style udon is saltier and has a brown color

The reason why Kanto-style is saltier is because dark soy sauce is used 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.

Bonito is the leading actor of the Kanto-style udon soup.

13. 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 to make Kansai-style soup.

The soup stock  is made up of a harmony of kelp, bonito, and dried sardines.

Since you only use a little bit of soy sauce, the soup is transparent.

14. The soup of Sanuki-style udon has a delicate taste and a light yellow color

Dried sardines are the leading actor of the Sanuki-style udon soup.

And kelp, bonito, and scallops are the supporting actors.

This soup has a nice delicate seafood flavor.

It comes from dried sardines.

15. But there are more different kinds 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

16. There are regional differences too

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

 

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 like adding more water, but be patient. It will become the right consistency if you keep kneading.
2 Put it 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 evenly.
8 Sprinkle starch on the noodles to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
9 Boil it for 2 minute.
Done

18. There are a lot of mysteries about the 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 the 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.

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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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