Udon noodles are a type of thick Japanese noodles made with wheat flour, water, and salt. Some popular udon recipes include yaki udon, beef udon, nabeyaki udon, and in a simple soup broth called kake udon.
In this article, we’ll learn:
- What is udon
- Origin & famous regional udon
- Udon VS soba
- Where to buy udon noodles & recommended brands
- How to cook udon noodles and recipes
- Homemade udon noodles (made-from-scratch)
What is Udon?
Udon (うどん) is a type of thick noodles made with three simple ingredients of wheat flour, water, and salt. Recognized for its chewy texture and white appearance, udon noodles can be served in a hot broth as a noodle soup, or in a thick curry sauce or enjoyed cold with a dipping sauce.
It is considered one of the most popular style of noodles in Japan, alongside soba noodles, ramen noodles, and somen noodles.
Udon noodles have a mild flavor with a springy, doughy texture, which makes it a versatile noodle to cook with. Although udon is much thicker than other noodles, it is gentle on the stomach and goes down the throat smoothly. High-quality udon should be smooth yet has a bouncy and elastic character to the noodles.
Because of its mild flavor and ability to complement other flavors, udon can be enjoyed in countless ways. Be it a simple broth, light dressing, spicy curry sauce, stir fry, or a western-style gravy, udon is delicious no matter how you prepare it.
Origin of udon noodles
Just like soba noodles, udon came to Japan from China around the Nara period. Records show that it was first made in the shape of a slightly flattened rice cake and was a high-class food enjoyed only by the elites. It was only later in the Edo period where the elongated shape was invented and started to spread out and enjoyed by the common people.
Famous Regional Udon – Sanuki Udon from Kagawa Prefecture
Known as the Capital of Udon, Kagawa prefecture is most famous for its Sanuki udon (the old name of Kagawa). The noodles are handmade with high-quality wheat from the region and are prepared with the well-preserved method that has been passed down for many generations.
Described for having koshi, or a good bite, people from all over Japan visit Kagawa just to sample a bowl of their famed sanuki udon. In Kagawa alone, you can find over 900 udon shops offering a myriad of udon to compete for your appetite. If you get a chance to visit the region, it is definitely worth paying a pilgrimage to this udon prefecture.
The Differences Between Udon Noodles and Soba Noodles
Both udon and soba are equally loved and revered in Japanese cuisine. The main difference is udon is made of wheat, while soba is made from buckwheat flour or a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours. Therefore, they taste significantly different from each other.
That said, you’ll find both noodles being prepared in very similar methods, from hot soups to stir-fries to cold dishes.
To learn more, you can read our What is the Difference Between Soba and Udon Noodles post.
Where to Buy Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are sold dried, fresh, or frozen at Japanese and many Asian grocery stores. You can also find them at major American grocery stores these days. The dried noodles are a convenient choice, but the fresh options have the best texture.
Our recommended brand of udon noodles is the frozen package called “Sanuki Udon”. You can purchase it in the freezer section of Japanese supermarkets as well as some Asian supermarkets or online.
How to Cook Udon Noodles
If you use frozen Sanuki udon, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the udon noodles and cook for about 1 minute. Pick up the noodles in a strainer or drain the hot water. Make sure to shake off the excess water.
If you use dried udon noodles, follow the package instructions to cook. Make sure not to overcook if you are planning to stir fry or add it to soup.
Recipes Using Udon
There are so many ways to enjoy udon noodles! You can stir fry, serve it as a cold noodle or with a hot broth as a soup, or add it to a hot pot.
Here are just some classic and easy udon noodle recipes you want to make at home:
How to Make Udon Noodles from Scratch
Do you know udon noodles are one of the easiest Japanese noodles to make at home? All you need is flour, water, and salt!
For my homemade udon noodle recipe, click here.