Udon noodles

What are they?

Every culture has its noodles, and Japan is no exception. Japanese noodles are soba (buckwheat noodles), udon (thick, white wheat noodles), and somen (thin, white noodles). Although Japan has the highest consumption rate per capita of ramen, it’s actually a Chinese noodle.

How do I use them?

Although most popularly eaten in hot soups, Japanese noodles are also served cold tsukemen-style with a dipping sauce, or in bukkake style with a splash of cold soup. Use leftover noodles in yakisoba (fried noodle) dishes or incorporate them into a salad.

What should I buy?

Japanese noodles can be available fresh, frozen, dried, or precooked, and all are perfectly good choices. Fresh noodles are great for their texture and usually come vacuum-packed, but do use them quickly or they’ll spoil. Precooked noodles are convenient, but check labels for extra preservatives if you’re trying to avoid them.

Noodles can vary in price quite a bit, depending on the quality of the ingredients. Higher quality, higher priced noodles tend to have more flavour and maintain a firmer texture after cooking. Look for solid-looking noodles with a smooth texture.

Udon are thick white noodles that can be served hot in soup, cold with a sauce, or even fried with leftover vegetables, meats, or seafood. Boil dried noodles for roughly 7 – 8 minutes, and fresh, vacuum-packed varieties for 2 minutes, to heat through.

Soba, which are darker and nuttier in flavour are made of buckwheat flour. They can also be served in hot soup or cooled and dipped in sauce. Boil soba noodles for roughly 4 – 5 minutes, depending on their thickness.

Somen, the thinnest noodle, is boiled for approximately 2 minutes and then immediately chilled. Eaters pluck the noodles out of a bowl of ice water and dunk them into a cool dipping sauce for a refreshing summertime treat.

Soba Noodles

Storage: Dried noodles can be kept in a cupboard indefinitely. Fresh (or cooked) noodles in vacuum packs should be stored according to package directions, because shelf life depends on whether preservatives have been used. Fresh and precooked noodles can also be frozen, and cooked straight from the freezer.