February 29, 2016

The Japanese Food Guide: Noodles

By Stuart Turner

Oodles of noodles, that's what we're all about. 

Every country has a staple carbohydrate; something that's easy to produce and provides lots of stodgy energy. In the UK it's often potatoes or bread, but in Japan, it's noodles or rice.

What are Noodles?

We're sure you know what noodles are, but generally, they are a product made from unleavened dough, which is shaped in various ways. In the USA, the term 'noodle' is often used to describe what we in the UK call 'pasta', and really they are quite similar, often being a mixture of flour and water or eggs. In Japan however, you won't really find any shaped that differs from long, thing strips. There are of course, different thicknesses, and some are flat whilst others are round. It's believed that pasta might have arrived in Italy due to trade connections with the noodles of China and the Far East.

Noodles arrived in Japan from an adapted Chinese recipe in the 9th Century, but it wasn't until the 1900s that ramen noodles became popular. Japan is also the home of 'instant noodles'; they were invented by a man called Momofuku Ando and sold in 1958 - the key to making this work was to dry thin noodles and offer packet sauces or flavourings as an addition.

Types of Japanese Noodles

Below are some of the most popularly used noodles in Japanese cuisine:

Ramen Noodles

Ramen noodles are a thin type of noodle derived from Chinese noodles. They are wheat based, and are made from flour, salt, water and kansui, which is an alkaline water - it can be made artificially, but the best and most desired ramen noodles are made from companies situated on famous alkaline lakes. These noodles have a firm texture, which makes them ideal for serving in broths.

Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki are thin, clear noodles made from konnyaku, a Japanese yam-like plant. The plant gives them a chewy, rubbery texture. 

Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat; which is a great source of protein, fibre and B vitamins. Soba noodles are ideal for using in soups, and in Japan they are often served cold to be eaten with a dipping sauce. 

Somen Noodles

Somen are very thin, light noodles that make a perfect dish in the summer when served with dipping sauces and soups. 

Udon Noodles

Udon noodles are very thick noodles often used in soups or served with sauces. They have a chewy texture and are made from wheat flour. 



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