Know Your Japanese Noodles

hands making noodles

Benoist Sébire / Getty Images

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.

  • 01 of 12

    Shoyu Ramen

    Quick shoyu ramen recipe

    The Spruce 

    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 can add toppings such as chopped negi (long green onion), boiled egg, cooked chicken, or nori seaweed if desired.

  • 02 of 12

    Miso Ramen

    Miso Ramen Japanese Soup

    The Spruce Eats

    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.

  • 03 of 12

    Hiyashi Chuka

    Cold summer hiyashi chuka ramen with egg, meat, seaweed, cucumber, and pickled ginger topping

    Gary Conner / Getty Images

    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.

  • 04 of 12

    Cold Somen

    Cold somen

    Irina Marwan / Getty Images

    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.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12


    Nyumen in a bowl with toppings

    MIXA / Getty Images

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

  • 06 of 12


    Yakisoba on plates

    FooDFactory / Getty Images

    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.

  • 07 of 12

    Kitsune Udon

    Kitsune Udon in a bowl

    imagenavi / Getty Images

    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.

  • 08 of 12

    Zaru Soba

    Zaru Soba

    imagenavi / Getty Images

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

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Tsukimi Soba

    Tsukimi Soba

    Fotosearch / Getty Images

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

  • 10 of 12

    Bukkake Udon

    Bukkake Udon

    imagenavi / Getty Images

    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.

  • 11 of 12

    Miso Nikomi Udon

    Miso Udon Noodle Soup

    The Spruce Eats

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

  • 12 of 12



    imagenavi / Getty Images

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