What Are The Differences between Japanese noodles?

Yumi Murata

Updated on:

Japanese noodles

How many types of Japanese noodles are there?

Have you already tried some kinds of Japanese noodles here in Japan?

We have a variety of Japanese noodles available including local specialties.

They are generally divided into 2 groups:

  1. The noodles made from wheat: Ramen, Udon, Somen, Yakisoba
  2. The noodle made from buckwheat: Soba

This time I’m writing about the differences among these 5 types of noodles briefly.

Ramen (らーめん・ラーメン・拉麺)

Shouyu Ramen

Credit: Zanpei via Flickr

When you visit Japan, you might be so surprised that there are tons of Ramen shops!! Each shop has its own secret recipe and method to make broth and soup. That means you can enjoy a variety of soup flavors and toppings with Ramen.

I’m afraid that I can’t introduce all types of Ramen because there are too many kinds!

In general, Japanese ramen is yellowish Chinese style noodles and served in a broth which consists of chicken, pork, beef, dried bonito shaving, kelp, and some vegetables, such as onion, leek, ginger, and so on. The most popular soup for Ramen is flavored with soy souse.

Although it depends on the Ramen shops, you usually see some toppings, such as sliced Char siu, some Menma, a piece of Narutomaki, some Wakame or Spinach, and a piece of Nori, and sometimes half of a boiled egg on the noodles in the soup.

Udon (うどん・ウドン・饂飩)

Kake Udon

Credit: yuya Tamai via Flickr

Hiyashi Udon

Credit: jetalone via Flickr

Not only Ramen but also Udon is popular for us, many people especially love Sanuki udon. Sanuki is a name of the district which is in Kagawa prefecture located in the Shikoku district. We have a variety of Udon including local specialities as well.

Generally Udon is white, a bit wide and typical has a chewing texture.

It depends on the noodle shops but the basic menu is Kake udon. Of course there are more udon dishies: for example
-Tempura udon (see this page ”Tempura”)
-Kitsune udon
-Tanuki udon
You can enjoy it in cold and hot with flavored dashi broth. When you visit Japan, try both of them.

Somen (そうめん・ソウメン・素麺)


Credit: yoppy via Flickr

Somen is very thin white noodle. After boiling Somen, we usually put it in ice water and keep cool. We preper a small cup with, Men tsuyu, chopped leek and granted ginger and usually eat it at home, especially in summer.

There aren’t many restaurant which serve Somen, so if you want to try it, it might be a little difficult.

Soba (そば・ソバ・蕎麦)

Kake Soba

Credit: Christina Kadluba via Flickr

Soba is special for Japanese people when New Year’s Eve comes. We have started eating Soba on that day as a custom since 1814 in Edo (now in Tokyo). Soba is thin and long so people wish to have a long life as Soba. When you visit Japan after Christmas, you should go to a soba shop on the last day of the year. You will see many Japanese people who are eating Soba there.

There are several kinds of Soba dishes on the menu:
-Tempura soba
-Kitsune soba
-Tsukimi soba

Yakisoba (やきそば・ヤキソバ・焼きそば)


Credit: James Cridland via Flickr

Yakisoba is steamed noodles. We cook it on the frying pan or the grill and usually cook it with pork, strip of cabbage and bean sprouts and season with Yakisoba sauce baced on Worcester sauce. We sprinckle green dried seaweed and add a bit of red pickled ginger as a relish.

Yakisoba is sold at the festival (Japanese Matsuri) and it is very popular food among us. When you enjoy Matsuri in Japan, try some at the small stores there.

I know that most people like Sushi, however while you are staying in Japan, enjoy some meals at the noodle shops as well!

The information covered in this article was correct at the time of writing. In the case of national holidays and seasonal holidays, opening hours may vary. If the information has changed, please notify us and we will alter it accordingly.