Udon - Japanese Noodles
What is Udon?
Udon is a style of Japanese noodle that's eaten commonly through out Japan and now can be found in almost any Japanese restaurant in the world. Udon noodles are characterized by their thickness and tender texture. They are most commonly used in Udon soup, of which their are many different kinds. Udon is also sometimes used in other dishes such as curry Udon, or yaki udon.
More About Udon Noodles
Udon is the Japanese take on the Chinese invention of noodles, most likely brought to Japan by traveling Buddhist monks. Traditionally udon is hand made by mixing wheat-flower, water and salt together into a dough and then rolling it flat on a smoth surface. The dough is then cut into thick noodles and cooked. Check out the video below to see how to make udon.
Udon is famous for having an extremely satisfying soft texture. the noodles also soak up flavors of other ingredients they are cooked with and thus are very easy to use and versatile. Also depending on the season, udon can be served hot or cold, adding to it's depth as an ingredient in many dishes.
The most common way to eat udon in Japan is in soup form. The basic form of udon soup consists of a broth made up of dashi (fish stock), soy sauce and mirin (Rice wine used for cooking). The udon is boiled and then placed in a large bowl with the soup base added second. Finally the udon is usually topped with green onions and served as either a side dish or main dish called "kake udon."
There are many different other toppings that can be added to udon to enhance the it's flavor. These include tempura (usualy deep fried vegetables or shrimp), fried tofu, seaweed or kelp pieces, fish cake, tempura flakes and half boiled eggs.
Other Udon Dishes
Udon is also used to make a personal favorite of mine, Yakiudon. This dish essentially consists of whatever you want it to, with the base ingredient always being udon. Yaki in japanese means to cook, heat or fry. So yakiudon can be translated into "fried udon." It's made by cooking other ingredients in a pan and adding already prepared udon nooldes. Usually it's made with pork and traditional Asian vegetables, although anything can be used. This dish is very similar to much more common yakisoba which is a popular street food made with buckwheat noodles.
Udon can also be added to curry to make "curry udon." Usually curry in japan is placed on top of or along side of white rice, however in the this case the udon is a substitute for rice. Japanese curry is much different from curry found in other asian countries. It's often much thickier and more like a stew with hardy cuts of meat, potatoes and onions added. This is very much a winter time dish served through out Japan as for lunch.
How to Make Udon
Check out the fantastic video on the right to see how to make udon yourself. It's really quite easy and only requires standard kitchen supplies. It looks quite fun too!
Be warned though, that it does take some time to make udon because you will need to make the dough and let it sit for a couple of hours. Also it does take some effort! Lots of needing of the dough is needed.
The results are definitely worth it though.