When I say ‘Japanese cuisine’, what do you think of? Sushi? Rice? Fish? Miso soup? Those are the most well-known items, surely, especially to Westerners who have no experience with traditional Japanese food. Still, they would be right. These are popular dishes and easy to find. And it’s commonly accepted that rice is not only a lunch and dinner item, but also a common breakfast food as well. Yet, rice isn’t the only popular carbohydrate among Japanese cuisine. In fact, noodles is right up there!
And I’m not talking about Western-style noodles. There’s no linguine, no fettuccine, no spaghetti. Japan and other East Asian cultures have their own noodles. Some of the more well-known noodles are soba noodles, udon noodles, and ramen noodles. Though, there are a couple other varieties, as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to trying all of them while I was in Japan, but how can one? Japan has so much amazing food! :p
However, I did try soba noodles, udon noodles, and ramen noodles(which are actually an import from China, but still very popular in Japan). And before you ask which one was my favorite: don’t. Haha! They’re all so different that I honestly don’t think I have the capability to pick a favorite, but I can tell you a little about them and why I love each of them sooo much! (besides the fact that I’m carbohydrate-addict :p)
Ramen is likely the most popular outside of Asia, but it’s not the instant ramen we pick up in the grocery store. This is much better! As many of you are well aware, the ramen noodle is quite thin and made from wheat. They are generally rather firm and have a slight yellow ting to them. Most importantly, they pick up a lot of their flavor from broth. (Plain ramen has little flavor, but if that’s your thing, go for it. Hee hee!) I love ramen because of the salty flavor that often accompanies the noodles.
Udon noodles, also made from wheat, are likely the second most popular outside of Asia. However, they’re different from other Asian noodle varieties because of the thickness of each noodle. It’s this thickness that adds a chewier texture to the noodle, which I actually enjoyed a lot! And as you likely suspected, udon noodles are designed for udon soup. However, while udon soup is commonly served hot, the noodles can also be served in a cool sauce for the piping hot summer months. (I didn’t get to try the cold variety, but I imagine it’s quite yummy!)
I did, however, get to try the cold variety of soba noodles while I was in Japan, which is dipped into a chilled sauce before consumption. This actually added such a unique flavor to the noodles, which is why I enjoyed the cold variety. Of course, for some Westerners, this could be a bit strange, but don’t worry! They have a hot soup for soba as well. No worries there. Though, the unique quality of soba noodles is that they are made from buckwheat and, as a result, have a grayish color instead of the typical white or yellow of other noodles.
All in all, I had an amazing time trying all these noodles and this is just a handful of the types available in Japan and other East-Asian countries. You’ll have to travel there yourself to try the authentic kind because Western modifications just don’t taste the same. And there are tons of other dishes that utilize noodles that having nothing to do with soup, such as okonomiyaki! Yum yum! Let me know in the comments below which noodle variety you’ve tried! I’d love to hear from you! ^.^