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Japanese noodle

About Japanese noodle

Soba with chopsticks Japanese people like noodle very much.
Noodle is eaten as light meal. So we can easily find noodle restaurant.
Additionally, for busy people there are many snack bar of noodle in the center of the cities or near the railway stations.
Most popular noodle are "udon", "soba" and "ramen".

Needless to say, you must eat any Japanese noodle with chopsticks.
(No fork is prepared.)

Udon and Soba

About udon and soba

"Udon" is a noodle made of plain wheat flour. It is white noodle and is thicker than spaghetti. And it is softer than spaghetti.
"Soba" is a noodle made of buckwheat flour. It is gray noodle and is about 1 to 2 milimeter width. And it is harder than udon.

We can eat both noodle everywhere in Japan.
Most noodle restaurants serve both, but there are some restaurants of only udon or only soba.

Generally udon tend to be liked in western Japan and soba tend to be liked in eastern Japan.

Cooking of udon and soba

You must select hot or cold cooking of these noodles.

Hot udon/soba is made by boiling the noodle, filling a bowl with hot soup mixed dashi, shoyu and mirin, and putting the boiled noodle into the bowl.
It is usually topped with thinly chopped green onion. You can season it with some powder of red pepper according to taste.

Cold udon/soba is made by boiling the noodle and cooling the boiled noodle swiftly in water.
The noodle is often served on a sieve-like bamboo tray called a "zaru". And a cup of cold soup mixed dashi, shoyu and mirin is served.
You pick up a mouthful amount of noodle with chopsticks and dip it in the soup before eating it.
Usually the diner adds thinly chopped green onion as a condiment and grated wasabi as a spice into the soup.

If you are a Westerner, you may have no experience of eating cold noodle.
Because Japan is very hot in summer, Japanese people enjoy the cold noodle in such season. Especially cold soba is liked by many people in all seasons.

Variety of udon and soba

Basic hot udon/soba is called "kake-udon/soba".

And hot udon/soba is able to top with various foods.

If a piece of tempura is topped, it is "tempura-udon/soba".
If a piece of abura-age is topped, it is "kitsune-udon/soba". In English "kitsune" means fox.
If a raw egg is topped, it is "tsukimi-udon". "Tsukimi" means moon viewing.
Of course, we can find other many varieties of udon/soba in any noodle restaurant.

Cold udon/soba have some varieties.

Generally cold udon/soba is served on a zaru, so it is called "zaru-udon/soba".
But "zaru-soba" is commonly garnished with bits of dried nori. So the soba without dried nori is called "mori-soba".

There is the cold udon/soba served on a plate.
In this case, you put the served all soup on the noodle before eating.
It is called "bukkake-udon/soba", and generally is topped with various foods.

Kitsune-udon Tenpura-udon Zaru-udon
Soba in Nagano Prefecture Soba in Shimane Prefecture Tsukimi-soba

Ramen

About ramen

"Ramen" is very popular with whole generations.
Originally ramen is the Chinese noodle, so it is very different from udon or soba in taste and cooking.

It has caught on in whole Japan rapidly in the latter half of the 20th century, and has been a sophisticated noodle menu.

Chinese cuisine has also noodle dish.
Ramen uses Chinese noodle, but Ramen is a Japanese dish developing in Japan.

Cooking of ramen

Basically, ramen is hot menu.
The noodle is made of plain flour. But because special alkali water is used, the noodle is yellow.
Ramen is made by boiling the noodle, filling a bowl with hot ramen soup and putting the boiled noodle into the bowl like hot udon or soba.

Ramen soup is very different from traditional Japanese soup.
Basic soup is made by boiled chicken bone, pig bone, dried fish, green onion and other many vegitables and spices in water for some hours.
So it is very richly-textured clear soup.

This is the normal basic soup, but there is a dictinct soup.

It is made from only pig bone and is white and thick soup.
It is called "tonkotsu soup".

Each ramen restaurant makes unique basic soup and express its individuality.

Ramen soup for guests is accomplished with adding a flavor.
When you order a ramen at a restaurant, you select from some flavors.
Generally they serve "shoyu"(soy sauce), "shio"(salt) and "miso". Some ramen restaurant serve "butter" adding to these flavors.

Finally some foods are topping.
Standard foods are some slices of barbecued pork, pickles of Chinese bamboo shoot and thin chopped green onion.
We sometimes find boiled egg, nori, boiled spinach, fried vegitables and so on as topping.

Shoyu ramen Shio-ramen Miso-ramen

Other famous noodles

Somen

"Somen" is very thin noodle like kite string.
It is made of plain flour, and we generally eat like cold udon.
The cold and thin noodle slide down our throat, so we sometimes enjoy eating in summer.

Kishimen

"Kishimen" is flat udon with 5 to 10 milimeters width.
It is made only around Nagoya city, so it is one of specialities of Nagoya.
We can eat it like udon.

Hiyashi-chuka

"Hiyashi-chuka" means "cold Chinese noodle".
It is made by cooling the boiling ramen noodle in water and putting the soup based on vinegar and shoyu on the noodle.
Chopped cucumber, sliced tomato, chopped fried egg and other ingredients are topped. So it looks like salad.
Commonly this is served in summer.

Yaki-soba

"Yaki-soba" means fried soba. But it is used not soba but ramen noodle.
It is made by frying ramen noodle on a hot plate and seasoning it with sosu (Worcestershire sauce).
We can't find this menu at most restaurants, but find some stands at festival of temple or shrine.

Somen Kishimen Hiyashi-chuka
Yakisoba

Loud slurping noises is OK

When you eat at any noodle restaurant, you find some people eating noodles with making loud slurping noises.
But they are not mannarless.
In Japan when eating noodles, making appealing and slurping noises is promoted.
Please don't accuse them.






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