Udon and soba noodles (not to be confused with somen noodles) are staples of Japanese cuisine that each is eaten hot or cold. Generally, people consume the cold version to cool off during hotter temperatures and vice versa when colder temperatures are present.
The most common theory of origin includes these noodles shifting from China to Japan in the 700s. Popularity for each noodle did not rise until the 1600s-1700s. Now, both noodles are available in many restaurants across Japan and Japanese-style restaurants around the world.
What's the Difference Between Udon and Soba?
There are a few main differences between these delicious noodles, including the ingredients they are made of, their thickness, and their appearance. Udon noodles use saltwater and flour to create a pure white noodle that is thicker and has more chewiness than soba.
Soba noodles are created using a combination of water, wheat, and buckwheat flour, and they're much thinner in comparison. You can recognize this type of noodle by its light brown hue present in soups and other soba recipes.
A final difference between these varieties of noodles is the flavor. Udon noodles offer a subtle taste, while soba noodles present a more robust earthy flavor and nuttiness.
How Are Udon Noodles Made?
Combine wheat flour, salt, and water in a bowl to make Udon noodles. After the dough has come together, it is kneaded, rolled out, left to rest, and then cut into thick 1/4" noodles. The final step is boiling the noodles before adding them into soup or dipping them in dashi.
While making these noodles does not require any special cooking skills, it can be time-consuming. If you're already hungry, you can use pre-made noodles and broth like the Sanuki Udon Set, Nissin Donbei: Kitsune Udon (1 Cup), or Nissin Donbei: Beef Udon (1 Cup). Top your udon soup with Sachimi Powder Set (3 Cans) for additional flavor.
How Are Soba Noodles Made?
Soba noodles are made similarly, though the dough takes longer to form due to a lack of gluten in buckwheat. It is essential to use the minimum amount of wheat possible when combining the ingredients, though it is necessary to have some form of gluten for easier dough rolling.
After adding the ingredients into a large bowl, kneading occurs until the dough forms. Next, either Edo-style or country-style rolling happens. Edo-style uses three rolling pins and is incorporated when there is a lack of kitchen space. Afterward, the dough is rolled out thinly, cut, and stored (or dried, then stored) until use.
Skip the majority of the cooking time by purchasing a soup mixture, try Nissin Donbei: Tempura Soba (1 Cup), Nissin Donbei: Kamo Dashi Soba (1 Cup), or Premium Sinshu Soba (4 servings). Add some extra flavor by incorporating White Sesame Paste (1 Pack) into the broth and topping your soup with Shichimi Powder Set (3 Cans). If you're not hungry enough for soup but still have a craving, you can grab some Eitaro Peasen: Authentic Tokyo Flavor Collection (5 Packs, 5 Flavors).
How Can You Cook with Udon?
Now that you’re hungry, here are some ways to enjoy Udon noodles. They range from hot to cold dishes and are incredibly tasty.
Simple but delicious. Noodles are added to a bowl and topped with tsuyu, a mild broth in this version. The toppings are very minimal and change depending on which region you consume this soup.
This version includes stir-fried noodles with seasoning, meat, and veggies and topped with sauce made from soy sauce.
Zaru indicates a special bamboo mat that is used as a serving platter for noodles. They are chilled, then topped with seaweed on zaru. Tsuyu broth sits on the side as a dipping sauce.
How Can You Cook with Soba?
Below, you'll find a few authentic Japanese dishes that include delicious soba noodles.
This dish is very similar to kake udon, though you'll find soba in this noodle soup instead.
Kitsune is a variety of kake soup; this version offers a topping of fried tofu.
This dish is similar to yaki udon, except using buckwheat noodles as a replacement. Usually, dipping sauces are on the side as well.
By Krystina Quintana
Now that you know the difference between udon and soba, learn how to eat soba with our video!