Along with sushi and miso soup, noodles are perhaps the most popular Japanese food around the world.
While they also serve as a major part of the Chinese diet, noodles are equally fundamental to various Japanese dishes. They allow chefs a huge range of freedom to experiment with almost any type of sauce, toppings, or ingredients.
However, chefs have numerous types of noodles to choose from, offering yet more room for innovation. Each has its own nutritional value, and complements some ingredients better than others.
Here are five different types of noodle you’ll find in Japan – each as delicious as the next …
Perhaps one of the most well-known, ubiquitous types of noodle, soba is made with buckwheat, and available in a wide variety of combinations. Buckwheat is not actually a form of wheat, and in its plant form it’s incredibly hardy, able to resist the strongest elements.
Buckwheat is very high in minerals, micro-nutrients, and proteins, helping to keep cardiovascular health and blood pressure at stable levels (along with a healthy lifestyle).
You’ll find soba as a hot dish with sauces, meats, and broths, while it’s often eaten cold. At Japanese New Year, people eat soba noodles to symbolize their hope for a long life ahead (due to their impressive length).
In a Men’s Fitness interview, renowned Michelin-started chef Gabriel Hedlund praised the benefits of adding buckwheat to your diet:
“You don’t feel bloated, it has a lot more protein, and it doesn’t react in the body like other flours do. And it tastes great.”
That this acclaimed chef is encouraging people to eat buckwheat demonstrates how much more popular it is, especially for people looking to avoid that bloated feeling.
Udon have a wonderfully chewy feel, and as they tend to absorb flavors from sauces or other ingredients, it’s best to eat these as part of a rich, strong dish.
Udon is prepared using a rigorous kneading process, usually performed with the feet (believe it or not). While udon noodles are a great base for hot meals, they’re also eaten cold.
Making udon is something of a hobby in Japan, due in no small part to the more active preparation process. In an article at The Huffington Post, chef Yoko Issai commented on the reason behind using your feet rather than your hands to knead udon:
“By using [your] feet, it [allows you] to knead with [your] entire body weight, which [is] a less tiring and far more effective technique.”
Somen noodles tend be very fine, with chefs using vegetable oil to stretch them to a delicate thinness. Generally, the Japanese devour these cold, even served with ice!
However, somen noodles are also served with a variety of vegetables, usually raw, or dipping sauces. You’ll find somen noodles in nyumen too, a hot, popular broth.
These delicious noodles are curly, fine, and made from wheat (oddly, considering their name translates as ‘cooked buckwheat’). Yakisoba is usually served grilled, with onion, cabbage, and carrot.
However, yakisoba work with almost anything, from various meats to most vegetables.
Last but by no means least – ramen.
These are one of the more famous kind of noodles in Japan, though they actually came from China. These are wheat-based, and typically feature kansui.
Ramen soup is eaten across Japan, and in the wider world, often found on menus at Japanese restaurants in the West. You can learn how to make it by following this brief video, from YouTube channel Japanese Cooking 101:
As you can see, there’s plenty of choice when looking for a delicious Japanese noodle dish. If you tend to stick to the same type again and again, why not experiment?