Udon was transmitted from China sometime in the 8th c. The dough is cut into thick strips, which are then boiled and served in a hot broth consisting of soy sauce, mirin, sugar and dashi. Various ingredients can be added on top, such as tempura or deep-fried bean curd.
The type of soup varies according to the region (darker and stronger in eastern Japan), and so do the noodles.
An alternative is to eat udon cold with a dip sauce. An in-between form is kame-age udon, in which case noodles cooked in hot water are eaten after dipping in a cold dip sauce.
Udon noodles are usually round, but Kishimen, for example, are wide, flat noodles from Nagoya. Sanuki Udon denotes the thick and rather stiff type from Kagawa prefecture on Shikoku. In the Kansai, the noodles are soft and of medium thickness.
Interesting is hoto, a flat and wide type cooked with vegetables, particularly Japanese kabocha “pumpkin,” from Yamanashi Prefecture.
[Homemade udon with abura-age, kamaboko, shiitake, fu and mitsuba]
Hot udon is named after the sauce in which it is served:
- Kake. Only in dashi with soy sauce, no other ingredients. The simplest form.
- Tanuki. With crumbs of baked tempura flour. “Tanuki” is a badger.
- Kitsune. With small pieces of aburage (deep-fried tofu). As the Fox Deity also loved aburage, this type of udon is called “kitsune,” “fox.”
- Sansai. With mountain plants.
- Tempura. With tempura, usually two large shrimps.
- Tororo. With a thick paste made from yam potatoes.
- Tsukimi. With egg yolk that in the bowl with udon looks like the moon appearing from the clouds (tsukimi = “moon viewing”).
- Kare. In curry sauce (by adding curry powder to the soup of the udon).
July 2 has become Udon Day because in the Sanuki area they used to plant the wheat around this day.
Udon is very popular in Japan and you will find udon-restaurants everywhere in the country, usually also offering a menu of soba, buckwheat noodles. There are countless restaurants even in the smaller towns so you will never have to miss this cheap and healthy dish.