Udon noodles are among the staples in Japanese restaurants, such as in the Wagamama. But like all things in Japanese cuisine, these noodles can be best appreciated if and when you know what they are – what their types are and how these are eaten, among others. Let’s take a look at these matters here so that you, too, will have a better appreciation of udon noodles.
Learn the Types
The Japanese people take pride in the wide selection of udon noodles in their cuisine and they have every right to be! When you become acquainted with these noodles, you will likely have your favorites, too. But you should experiment with the combinations of udon noodles with broths and toppings because being a foodie means constantly challenging your palate.
The common types of udon noodles are:
- Bukkake udon can be served warm or cold. With the cold version, the cooked noodles are first exposed to cold water to stop the cooking process before these are placed in a large bowl. These are then mixed with dashi tsuyu and toppings for more flavor and texture. The warm version involves cooking the noodles, shocking them with cold water, and reheating them in hot water.
- Kake udon, a warm udon served with warm flavorful Kansai-dashi broth. The broth, by the way, is made of dried fish, konbu seaweed, and light soy sauce, which is popular in the Kansai district. The Kanto-dashi broth is different because its flavors come from the bonito flakes and regular soy sauce seasoning.
- Kamaage udon, also a warm udon that wasn’t rinsed with cold water resulting in its chewy texture. The cooked noodles with some of their cooking water are served in a bowl, as well as a separate bowl containing strong dashi tsuyu. Using your chopsticks, get the noodles from its bowl, dip it into the dashi tsuyu, and slurp away.
- Kama-bukkake udon can also be served either warm or cold, but both have cold tsuyu poured over them. These noodles also have a chewy texture like the kamaage udon because the rinsing in cold water step isn’t part of its preparation.
- Shippoku udon, a warm udon mixed with warm broth. The dashi broth may have been simmered with vegetables like daikon radishes, taro potatoes, and carrots.
- Yudame udon, a warm udon dippe into tsuyu so it has similarities with kamaage udon. But it’s also different because of its firmer bite.
Are you confused yet? This isn’t surprising because of the foreign words and the apparent similarities between all of these types of udon noodles.
But as you become more acquainted with the terms and the noodles, you will realize that your worries were unwarranted. Japanese cuisine can be easy to learn, especially with the emphasis on simplicity in preparation (i.e., minimal manipulation of the ingredients) and sophisticated presentation.
Learn the Terms
You can also start learning a few Japanese terms so that you can order udon noodles like the Japanese people. You will likely get by with these terms during your first visits:
- Atsu atsu – The udon noodles and its broth are both hot.
- Hiya Hiya – The noodles and broth are cold; the opposite of atsu atsu.
- Atsu hiya – The udon is hot and served with cold broth.
- Hiya atsu – The udon is cold and served with hot broth; it’s a popular combo because the broth’s aroma rises to the surface while the noodles are still chewy
But since most Japanese restaurants in the United States have English-speaking chefs and servers, you can just tell them your orders. Think of the servers as a Magic 8 ball, too – don’t shake them for information but ask them for advice about the most popular udon style in the restaurant. Whatever the recommended udon noodles will likely be the most flavorful so you get the best value for your money.
When your first exposure with udon noodles is a pleasurable one, you will come back again and again because it’s one of the best comfort foods this side of the world. You can experiment with other udon and broth combinations later on but your first slurp will likely be your most memorable, the basis for your growing addiction to the dish.
Since you’re learning the types and terms for udon noodles, you may as well learn the proper way of eating them. A few tips to keep in mind:
- Eat your udon noodles with a slurping sound – the louder, the better! It isn’t just a compliment to the chef but, more importantly, it helps in cooling the noodles and broth as these enter your mouth.
- Ask for extra noodles in case you have leftover broth, a practice known as kaedama. You may also request for a small bowl of unseasoned broth to add to your leftover broth, which you can then drink to finish your meal.
Udon noodles are a Japanese favorite for good reasons! These are filled with the good stuff, particularly carbs, that will provide energy for your body while the broth nourishes the body and mind so that you’re ready for your day.