A quick summer lunch: Cold Tanuki Udon! It’s a refreshing chilled udon noodle dish drizzled in umami-rich mentsuyu and topped with cucumber, tomatoes, tenkasu (tempura scraps), wakame seaweed, and soft-boiled egg.
When the weather gets too hot, 1) your appetite goes down, 2) you don’t want to cook, 3) all you want to eat is something cold and cool down, like Green Tea Shaved Ice. Sure, I have skipped a meal and enjoy cold treats for lunch when I wasn’t a mom. But with my children around, I have to think of QUICK and EASY (and cold!) dishes for our lunch, and of course it should be delicious as well. Cold Tanuki Udon (冷やしたぬきうどん) is a perfect lunch on those hot days.
What is Tanuki Udon?
Tanuki Udon is a udon noodle soup dish usually served in a hot dashi broth and topped with tempura bits called tenkasu. However, during the summer months, this dish is often prepared cold. It’s very refreshing and super easy to prepare.
Theories of Tanuki
Now if you are wondering about the name of this dish… Tanuki. Do you know what the word means in Japanese? Tanuki (たぬき, 狸) means a raccoon dog. No, I’m serious! What’s that to do with this dish and why was it named after a raccoon dog?
There are a couple of theories why this udon noodle dish is called tanuki, but it seems like no one really knows for sure. One strong theory is that the name tanuki comes from “tane nuki” (meaning “without fillings” just tenkasu).
Also, the each region in Japan has their own style of “Tanuki Udon” and they are a bit different from region to region. Let’s look at these three big cities: Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. In Tokyo, “tanuki” refers to tenkasu, like I mentioned above. In Kyoto, however, “tanuki” refers to Kitsune Udon or Kitsune Soba with ankake (a dish where a thick gravy sauce is poured over ingredients). In Osaka, “tanuki” means Kitsune Soba (soba only), and udon with tenkasu is simply called Tenkasu Udon not Tanuki Udon. Next time you’re in Japan and sees Tanuki Udon on the menu, make sure to remember where you are or you could be in for a surprise.
Udon with Tenkasu (Agedama)
For those unfamiliar with Tenkasu 天かす (or sometimes called Agedama 揚げ玉), it is simply little bits of crunchy fried tempura batter and sprinkled like mini-croutons.
It can be added on top of noodle soup, or mixed in dishes like Okonomiyaki, Hiroshimayaki, and Takoyaki. Tenkasu adds both flavor and texture to the food. Pre-made tenkasu can be found in a package like this and purchased at Japanese supermarkets.
If you don’t think you could get tempura bits in nearby grocery stores, don’t worry. You could use the leftover tempura crumbs from when you make tempura, or simply skip it and enjoy tanuki udon with your favorite ingredients (but can’t call it Tanuki, as it refers to tenkasu).
- Mentsuyu (Noodle based soup) – You can make a big batch from scratch (and keep in the fridge), or buy a premade bottle from a Japanese/Asian grocery store or on Amazon.
- Tenkasu (tempura scraps) – You can make your own if your local Japanese/Asian grocery store does not have it.
- Wakame seaweed – You can use nori seaweed if that’s easier to purchase.
- Cucumbers, tomatoes, and other toppings – Feel free to use whatever you want to put on top.
- Mentsuyu – Make vegan-friendly mentsuyu with vegan-friendly Kombu Dashi
- Soft-boiled egg – swap with fried tofu
This is a super easy udon noodle dish perfect for the summer to cool you down. Loaded with vegetables, protein, chewy udon noodles, and cold, umami-rich broth.
Watch How to Make Cold Tanuki Udon
Cool off with this refreshing and delicious cold udon drizzled in umami mentsuyu and topped with cucumber, tomatoes, tenkasu, wakame, and egg.
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Cold Tanuki Udon
- Gather all the ingredients. If you are going to/need to make mentsuyu from scratch, follow the recipe here.
- Put wakake seaweed in a small bowl and soak for 15 minutes. After soaking, queeze the water out and set aside.
- Thinly slice the scallion.
- Peel the cucumber (leave some skin) and thinly slice diagonally. Then cut into julienne strips and set aside.
- Peel the daikon skin and grate. Squeeze the water out and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil for udon noodles. My favorite udon is the frozen Sanuki Udon. Blanch the frozen udon noodles in boiling water for 1 minute (no need to defrost). If you use dry noodles, follow the package instructions. Remove udon from boiling water and cool in an ice bath. Wait until it cools completely and drain.
- To make the sauce, add ⅓ cup of mentsuyu. My mentsuyu recipe should be diluted about 2-3 times depending on your preference. If you use store bought mentsuyu, read the directions to see if you can use it “straight” (no need to dilute) or if it should be diluted 2 times or 3 times. Add ice cubes to keep mentsuyu cool.
- Serve udon on the plate/bowl and add toppings on top. Pour the mentsuyu (sauce) over and enjoy!