Udon is a local dish that many people love in Japan. It is a very simple dish and this is why you never get bored of the taste. There are many different types of udon all over Japan.
1. What is Udon?
There are a few different stories about udon. One story says udon originated in China and people brought the recipe back to Japan. Another says udon’s shape used to look like a bun and it was called “konton” and became “udon” today.
Udon ingredients are flour, water (or warm water) and salt.
How udon noodles are made? – Mix the flour and salt water in several parts to make dough. Knead the dough and rest a few times repeatedly. Then, sprinkle the counter with flour and place the dough onto it. Roll the dough out, fold it and cut it into strands.
2. Udon Recipes
Soak 10cm of kombu (kelp) and 20 Niboshi (dried fish) in 2 liters of water for a few hours. Heat it on medium heat and just before it comes to a boil, take out the Kombu, and 5 minutes later take out the Niboshi. Add 100g of bonito flakes and boil it for 15 minutes, removing impurities. Turn off the fire and once the bonito flakes sink, filter the broth with paper towels. The filtered soup is dashi (the base stock) for udon. To complete udon soup, boil 50ml of thin soy sauce, 50g of sugar, 60g of mirin (cooking sweet sake) and 50g of sake all together and add it to the base soup.
(Instead of using kombu, niboshi and bonito flakes, many people use dashi powder at home. Simply add the seasonings written above to it to make udon soup.)
Fresh noodles/ Dried noodles
Fresh noodles are made of flour and salt water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and stir, adjusting the heat until the noodles circle around in the water. Drain the water and rinse the noodles with cold water. The boiling time is 12-14 minutes for thick noodles and 4-5 minutes for thin noodles.
Dried noodles are dried in the process of making the noodles. Therefore, they are long-lasting and useful. Some can be stored more than one year. The downside of dried noodles is that they easily stick together when they are boiled for a long time. Boil the noodles for a shorter period of time before you add them to what you’re cooking. It is also important to prepare a large pot of hot water to boil dried noodles since they contain more salt than fresh ones for preservation. Once they are boiled, over 90% of the salt is dissolved into the water.
You can eat the boiled noodles in soup by cooking with the soup again, or by stir-frying with other ingredients. Salad udon is now gaining popularity as well.
3. How is Udon Soup ? Types of Udon Broth (Dashi)
Throughout Japan, udon is loved widely, but udon soup is very different between east and west Japan. Generally, the soup in Kanto region (including the Greater Tokyo Area and encompasses seven prefectures) in the east, is stronger and richer taste. In the Kansai area (including Kyoto and Osaka) in the west, lighter and the thinner soup is common.
• Kanto Dashi: Kanto dashi is mainly made with bonito flakes. The flakes are added to dark soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Because of its savouriness, most people don’t drink the soup.
• Kansai Dashi: Kansai dashi is usually made with kombu, iriko (dried sardines) and bonito flakes. This combination is added to thin soy sauce and salt to make udon soup. Many people finish the soup as it is not as strong as the Kanto dashi.
• Miso Dashi: Miso dashi is made with the soup stock from bonito flakes, added to Haccho-miso, white miso and mirin.
4. Local Udon Varieties
Sanuki Udon: Local udon in Kagawa prefecture. Sanuki udon features a soft but elastic texture, which is produced in the manufacturing process of kneading the dough with feet. The dashi is made with fish flakes (bonito, Japanese sardine, mackerel. etc.), dried fish and kombu. There are 2 ways to eat Sanuki udon; dipping the noodles in the soup or pouring them into the soup. In the former way, the soup is prepared with dark or tamari soy sauce, sugar, mirin and salt. In the latter way, the soup is with thin soy sauce and salt.
Osaka Udon: The texture is not as elastic as Sanuki udon but the soup is more savoury. The shape of the noodles is round while sanuki’s is square.
Inaniwa Udon: Local udon in Akita prefecture. This udon features dried thin noodles with a yellowish color and a smooth texture.
Miso Nikomi (stewed) Udon: Local udon in the Chubu area ( for example Aichi prefecture).
It is often served in a small hotpot for one person. The noodles are specifically made for this recipe with only flour and water.
Put bonito dashi, miso, chicken, pork, deep-fired tofu, spring onion and udon all together in a pot and cover it. Finish it up with fish cakes and an egg.
Goto Udon: Local udon in the Goto Islands in Nagasaki prefecture. Udon makers use 2 sticks to stretch and fold the dough many times until the noodles become thin, and then dry them. They add the islands’ speciality, camellia oil, into the dough in the process. Goto udon is famous for its firm yet smooth texture. It is normally served in Ago dashi soup. (Ago= local name for flying fish)
Kishimen: Flat type of udon that is 1mm thick and 7-8mm wide. The cooking time is just half of normal udon. Its surface is smooth and has an elastic texture. It is usually served in dashi seasoned with tamari soy sauce and topped with spring onion, deep fried tofu and bonito flakes.
5. Popular Udon Dishes
Kitsune Udon : Topped with aburaage (sweetened deep-fried tofu pockets). It literally means fox noodles, as it is said that aburaage is fox’s favorite food.
Tempura Udon: Topped with prawn or vegetable tempura.
Yaki-udon: stir-fried udon with your favorite meat, vegetables and some seasonings like soy sauce.
Zaru-udon: cold udon in a bamboo basket. Served with dipping sauce.
Bukkake-udon: boiled udon poured into a small amount of fresh soy sauce or udon soup.