Know Your Japanese Noodles

Thick, Thin, Cold, and Hot Dishes

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  • 01 of 18

    So Many Noodles

    girl eating with bowl to face
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    There are many kinds of noodle dishes consumed in Japan. Identifying each one can be tricky. Here is a visual guide to help you sort through it all.

    First some basics about the noodles themselves:

    • Ramen is a thin, curly wheat noodle.
    • Somen is a thin wheat noodle that isn't curly.
    • Udon is a thick wheat noodle.
    • Soba is a buckwheat noodle that can be gluten-free, but some types have added wheat flour.

    These can all be served hot, cold, boiled, fried, and topped with various vegetables, meat, or fish.

  • 02 of 18

    Shoyu Ramen

    bowl of ramen noodles
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    Shoyu ramen is ramen noodle in soy sauce-flavored soup. The typical curly noodle used in ramen dishes is chukamen, made from using wheat flour and an alkaline solution (kansui). In shohyu ramen the sauce is tangy, salty, and savory. You an add toppings such as chopped negi (long green onion), boiled egg, cooked chicken, or nori seaweed, if desired.

  • 03 of 18

    Miso Ramen

    miso ramen
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    Ramen noodles in miso-based soup are called miso ramen. Some garnishes you may want to offer include chopped green onion, hard-boiled egg, fish cake (kamaboko) slices, roasted white sesame seeds, pickled bamboo shoots (menma), mushrooms, and boiled spinach.

  • 04 of 18

    Shio Ramen

    shio ramen
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    Ramen served in a salt-flavored broth is called shio ramen. It may have toppings such as corn. It is popular in the southern part of Japan.

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  • 05 of 18

    Tonkotsu Ramen

    tonkotsu ramen
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    Tonkotsu means pork bones in Japanese, and this variation is ramen noodles served in tonkotsu-based soup. Often the broth has many aromatics such as onions, garlic, ginger, or mushrooms.

  • 06 of 18

    Hiyashi Chuka

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    Hiyashi chuka is like a noodle salad and is eaten during the summer in Japan. Toppings and dressings vary and can include meat, strips of egg crepes, and thinly sliced crispy vegetables. The dressing is often based on soy sauce.

  • 07 of 18

    Hiyashi Chuka Noodles With Sesame-Flavored Dressing

    Hiyashi Chuka
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    This is a variation of basic hiyashi chuka and is served with sesame flavored dressing (goma-dare).

  • 08 of 18

    Cold Somen

    cold somen
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    Cold somen (thin wheat noodles) are served with dipping sauce and toppings. The dipping sauce is often the same Japanese dashi-based broth used in hot soup, but more concentrated and flavored with scallions and ginger.

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  • 09 of 18

    Nyumen

    nyumen
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    Somen noodles in hot soup are usually called nyumen. You can add various kinds of meat and vegetables to top it.

  • 10 of 18

    Yakisoba

    Yakisoba
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    Yakisoba noodles are stir-fried with meat and vegetables and seasoned with sauce. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat rather than wheat and can be gluten-free. However, some noodle manufacturers add wheat flour as well, so you will need to check if you are eliminating gluten. The sauce is similar to Worcestershire sauce in flavor.

  • 11 of 18

    Kata Yakisoba

    kata Yakisoba
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    This is a crunchy kind of yakisoba (fried noodles) served with a thick sauce.

  • 12 of 18

    Kitsune Udon

    Kitsune Udon
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    Udon noodles served in hot soup and topped with seasoned aburaage (fried bean curd) are called kitsune udon. The name means fox noodle, which comes from an old folktale. The udon noodles are thick, soft, and chewy.

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  • 13 of 18

    Yaki Udon

    Yaki Udon
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    Yaki udon is stir-fried udon noodle similar to yakisoba, but with the thicker udon noodles. which are made from wheat rather than buckwheat.

  • 14 of 18

    Zaru Soba

    Zaru Soba
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    Zaru soba is cold buckwheat noodle spooned onto a bamboo plate (zaru). It's served with dipping soup and some toppings.

  • 15 of 18

    Tsukimi Soba

    Tsukimi Soba
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    Tsukimi soba is hot soba (buckwheat noodles) with a raw egg topping.

  • 16 of 18

    Bukkake Udon

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    For bukkake udon, the sauce is simply poured over boiled udon (thick wheat noodles). It's a cold dish served with various toppings, such as grated daikon radishes and grated ginger. Bukkake describes the act of splashing liquid on something.

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  • 17 of 18

    Miso Nikomi Udon

    Miso Udon Noodle Soup
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    Miso nikomi udon is a hot udon noodle dish simmered in miso-based soup.

  • 18 of 18

    Tsukemen

    Tsukemen
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    Dipping noodles are generally called tsukemen. Chilled curly ramen noodles are served with dipping soup and toppings on the side.