3 Popular Japanese Noodles Explained: Ramen, Udon, and Soba

Discover the tasty world of Japanese noodles! This guide will help you differentiate between popular Japanese noodles, ramen, udon, and soba. Keep reading to learn more!

3 Japanese noodles dishes

Noodles are a staple and play an important role in Japanese cuisine. While there’s a variety of noodle types, their similar appearances and flavors often lead to confusion.

This guide will focus on the most popular Japanese noodles: ramen, udon, and soba. I’ll explain what they are and clarify the differences between them, making your noodle choices at Japanese restaurants a breeze!

    This recipe is for you if:
  • You are wondering what Japanese noodles are.
  • You want to know more about Japanese noodles.
  • You want to understand the difference between ramen, udon and soba.

Let’s dive into the world of Japanese noodles!

Ramen Noodles

ramen noodles

Japanese ramen noodles are crafted from wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui, an alkaline mineral water that gives them their distinct yellow color and firm texture. Some ramen noodles may also contain eggs.

These thin wheat noodles are typically served in a flavorful broth made from various ingredients. The broth’s taste can range from rich and creamy to light and clear, depending on the style of ramen.

How Ramen is Prepared

shio ramen noodles served in a bowl

To make a delicious bowl of ramen, ramen chefs craft the broth using ingredients like pork bones, chicken, or vegetables. The noodles are cooked just right and topped with such as sliced pork (chashu), soft-boiled eggs, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, seaweed (nori), and green onions.

Popular Ramen Dishes

  • Shoyu Ramen: Savory taste with soy sauce-based broth.
  • Miso Ramen: Bold flavor from miso paste in the broth.
  • Tonkotsu Ramen: Creamy, rich broth from simmered pork bones.
  • Shio Ramen: Clear, salty broth with a delicate taste.
  • Hiyashi Chuka: Cold ramen noodles with various toppings.
  • Yakisoba: Stir-fried ramen noodles with yakisoba sauce and various ingredients.

Udon Noodles

frozen udon noodles

Udon noodles, the classic noodle made with wheat flour, are a staple of Japanese cuisine. These white and thick noodles have a chewy texture and can be enjoyed in both hot and cold dishes.

They are a popular quick lunch menu for the on-the-go. You can easily find the noodle stands that serve udon noodle soups (as well as soba noodles) at train stations across the country.

How Udon is Prepared

kake udon noodles served in a bowl

Japanese udon noodles are boiled to a chewy texture and served in a flavorful broth made from dashi (awase dashi or niboshi dashi) and soy sauce. Place toppings like tempura, green onions, and seaweed.

Popular Udon Dishes

Udon noodles are enjoyed in a variety of delicious dishes, including:

  • Zaru Udon: Cold udon served on a bamboo tray with a flavorful dipping sauce.
  • Kake Udon: Hot noodle soup with simple toppings.
  • Curry Udon: Hot udon served with mild but thick curry sauce.
  • Yaki Udon: Stir-fried noodles with various ingredients.
  • Natto Udon: Cold udon noodles served with soup and natto.
  • Kitsune Udon: Udon served with a piece of aburaage (sweet fried tofu).
  • Tempura Udon: Udon served with a side of crispy tempura.

Find more varieties in 8 Easy Udon Recipes.

Soba Noodles

chilled soba noodles in a package.

Soba noodles’s key ingredient is buckwheat flour. They are made by kneading buckwheat flour with water, stretching it out thinly, and cutting it into thin strips.

In the past, soba noodles were traditionally made solely from buckwheat flour and water, known as Juwari soba. However, due to its challenging noodle-forming properties, wheat flour, typically all-purpose flour, is contained as a binding agent.

How Soba is Prepared

zaru soba noodles served in a plate.

The preparation of soba buckwheat noodles is similar to udon: cooked noodles are served in a flavorful broth crafted from dashi and soy sauce. Add toppings such as tempura, green onions, and seaweed to enhance the dish.

Popular Soba Dishes

Soba noodles are enjoyed in a variety of delicious dishes, including:

  • Zaru Soba: Cold soba noodles served on a bamboo tray with a dipping sauce.
  • Kake Soba: Hot soba served in a savory broth with toppings like green onions.
  • Kitsune Soba: Soba served with sweet fried tofu.
  • Tempura Soba: Soba served with a side of crispy tempura.
  • Toshikoshi soba: Soba eaten on New Year’s Eve. The long and thin soba noodles symbolize a wish for a long life in Japanese culture.

Differences Between The Noodles

3 types of Japanese noodles.

The primary difference between the three noodles lies in their ingredients. Here, you can find the comparison table showing some key differences between these three delicious Japanese noodles – let’s take a look.

NoodlesMain IngredientsColorShapeGluten-Free
RamenWheat flour,
Salt, Kansui
UdonWheat flour
SobaBuckwheat flour
Flour, Salt
(Yes, for Juwari)
(There are always exceptions, but this is a general comparison.)

Differences Between The Soup

3 types of Japanese noodle dishes.

The soup imparts distinct characteristics to each noodle dish. Here’s a simple table comparing the noodle soups for soba, udon, and ramen.

Noodle SoupDashi StockSeasoningTaste
RamenChicken, or
Oil, Soy Sauce
Garlic, Ginger
UdonAwase Dashi, or
Niboshi Dashi
Soy Sauce
SobaAwase Dashi, or
Niboshi Dashi
Soy Sauce
(While numerous soup recipe variations exist, this is a general overview.)

The table shows that the same soup can be used for both soba and udon. The soup base consists of dashi derived from fish and seasoned with soy sauce and mirin, resulting in a lighter flavor profile.

On the other hand, ramen soup is made from chicken or pork, with added oils like lard or sesame oil and flavor-boosting elements like ginger and garlic. This creates a rich and flavorful broth.

Which One To Choose

I hope you get clear ideas about the differences between these three best Japanese noodles. Which one is your favorite?

  • Indulging in Richness: If you’re a rich and hearty noodles fan, ramen is the perfect choice!
  • Savoring the Chew: Udon noodles are ideal for those who enjoy a chewy texture.
  • Opting for Health: Considering healthier options? Soba noodles are worth exploring. Buckwheat flour’s lower glycemic index compared to regular white or wheat flour can aid in regulating blood sugar levels.

Other Noodle Varieties

yaki soba in a frying pan

Here are some other popular types of noodles in Japan:

  • Somen Noodles: These wheat flour noodles are much thinner compared to other types. They’re often enjoyed cold, dipped in sauce, especially during the summer.
  • Harusame Noodles: Also referred to as glass noodles or cellophane noodles, these transparent, thin noodles are made from mung bean starch or potato starch. They are commonly used in salads and stir-fries.

Thanks For Stopping By!

bukkake udon served in a bowl.

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