Difference Between Udon and Soba: Udon vs. Soba
When it comes to Japanese cuisine, one can only be amazed by its diversity. The variety of authentic dishes is truly dazzling with noodles being an absolute standout. Some of their types are talked about more than others, for instance, ramen noodles. But it doesn’t mean that the rest should be left behind.
Have you ever heard of soba noodles? And what about udon? This is when it becomes confusing. Lots of people usually mix up these two noodle types. Nevertheless, the difference between udon and soba exists and it goes way beyond the looks.
Want to know what is the difference between soba and udon noodles? Stay tuned! We’re going to cover a lot of details about the udon vs soba battle.
What are soba noodles?
Soba noodles are mostly made of buckwheat flour, wheat flour and water. In the Japanese language the word “soba” means “buckwheat”, so it certainly makes sense. These noodles have a brownish colour and a rich nutty taste.
Although they may be served as a separate dish, soba noodles are an irreplaceable ingredient for multiple traditional recipes.
The tradition of eating soba noodles flourished during the Edo period. At that time, each eating establishment served soba noodles together with sake and other Japanese meals.
Local people preferred them to simple white rice, due to the number of nutrients and vitamins they contain. Thus, being richer in taste and healthier than other food of the period, soba noodles gained popularity.
The rest is history. But there are quite a few different varieties of soba noodles that have appeared over this time.
Varieties of soba
When talking about soba noodles, we should understand that there is more than just one way to cook them. Different ingredients, preparation styles and areas of origin really influence the dish and add some uniqueness.
So, let’s have a look at the most common varieties of soba noodles out there.
Tempura soba noodles
At first glance, tempura soba it’s a traditional meal made of soba noodles and broth. But what makes it special is the tempura-style cooked topping. The most frequent option is a prawn, especially a tiger prawn. However, vegetables or tofu tempura will do just fine.
Kitsune soba noodles
This soba soup can be one the most delicious meals you’ve ever tried. The broth is usually made of dried kombu, kelp, or mushrooms. Together with the buckwheat taste of soba, and fried tofu topping, this dish has a brilliant aroma and a distinctive flavour.
Zaru soba noodles
How about a cold soba noodles dish? Sounds great, doesn’t it? Its soba tsuyu sauce, made of dashi, soy sauce and mirin, is what makes the taste so special. Zaru soba noodles are usually served on a bamboo tray with pieces of dried nori.
Kake soba noodles
This is perhaps one of the least complicated dishes you can come across. It consists of boiled soba noodles and hot broth, which is usually made of kelp, bonito flakes, and niboshi.
However, the range of the ingredients can vary depending on the areas or specific traditions, which amplifies the taste of this soup.
Yakisoba is quite a popular Japanese street food treat. It consists of the soba noodles fried together with the meat, veggies and your preferred greenery. What makes the dish special is the Worcestershire-style sauce that creates a richer taste.
Yamakake soba noodles
Here is one more variation of the soba noodles soup. It’s topped with grated nagaimo. Such mingling of tastes makes this dish quite popular not only among the locals but also among connoisseurs of Japanese cuisine.
Oroshi soba noodles
This chilled dish will impress you with its distinct aroma. It has all the chances to become one of your favourites. With such ingredients as daikon, nori, bonito flakes and others, this treat is a perfectly balanced blend.
Tsukimi soba noodles
There is no way tsukimi soba noodles will leave you indifferent. By the way, tsukimi soba is one of the New Year's eve dishes, and there is a reason for its popularity.
The rich taste of the buckwheat noodles receives a new colouring thanks to the raw egg and soy sauce. If you like experiments, this is a great option for you to consider.
What are udon noodles?
Japanese cuisine cannot be imagined without udon noodles either. These are thick and chewy noodles, made of wheat flour, salt, and water. People eat them not only in Japan but also in many other countries around the globe.
Udon can be cooked in a multitude of ways, either as a separate dish or as a component of a complex staple. You can find udon noodles in cold and hot dishes, fried with meat or vegetables, and topped with tofu, prawns, kamaboko and lots of other options.
Just like soba, udon noodles have their roots deep in history. However, their origin is even dimmer, leading to the creation of various tales and legends.
One of the legends has it, that one of the Rinzai monks once travelled to Song China where he discovered the technology of flour milling. Later on, he brought it to Japan. After that, the locals learned how to make udon and soba, and spread their experience across the country.
Here is also a different story, that refers to the Heian Era and a priest called Kukai. He happened to study in Tang Dynasty China where he also learned what udon noodles were. Over time, this knowledge reached the small Japanese island of Shikoku and grew into what we know today as udon noodles.
Many other tales can be mentioned here as well. But for the small details, the main idea remains unchanged. The tradition of eating noodles came from China and evolved into one of the most beloved foods of the Japanese people.
Varieties of udon
As you already know, there is plenty of ways to eat udon. Even the pickiest eaters will find something to their liking. So, let’s see what we’ve got here.
This a dish that tastes equally well both hot and chilled. What makes it special is the topping, which includes seaweed, kamaboko and tempura batter pieces. This a great option to start one’s Japanese cuisine journey.
Kake udon is a soup, that tastes the best when it’s hot. Green onions, grated ginger and kamaboko intensify quite a neutral taste of the udon noodles. Here you’ll find sake, soy sauce, mirin, and many other traditional ingredients.
Kitsune udon is perhaps one of the most popular udon soups. It consists of dashi broth, udon noodles and fried tofu on the top. Kitsune udon is sometimes confused with tanuki udon, due to the similarity of their components.
One more option for chilled udon noodles is zaru. In fact, zaru is the bamboo tray on which the dish is served. Another perk of this dish is the dipping sauce, made of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. The variety of tastes creates a perfect balance.
Yaki udon is a popular Japanese snack. It consists of stir-fried noodles, cooked with the vegetables, like bamboo shoots or mushrooms, as well as with meat and soy-based sauce. Thanks to the simplicity of the preparation steps, this is quite a popular dish.
As the very name suggests, this soup has a distinctive curry roux taste. Cooked with dashi stock, meat, and vegetables, it combines a wide spectrum of flavours, which complement one another perfectly well.
Tempura udon is a hot broth dish with tempura-cooked prawns and vegetables. This a great mix of soft udon and crispy topping that are amplified by the mirin and soy sauce added to the broth.
Main Difference Between Udon and Soba Noodles
So far some many new facts, right? As you might have noticed, soba and udon noodles have lots of things in common, especially when it comes to the ways to consume them.
At the same time, there is more than meets the eye. So why not have a closer look at the difference between soba and udon?
The most striking difference between soba and udon is perhaps their appearance. Soba noodles are long, thin and characterised by various hues of brown colour. While udon strands are much thicker. They are white, glossy, and chewy.
Udon noodles are mostly made of wheat flour, water, and salt while the main ingredient of soba noodles is buckwheat flour.
Sometimes a certain amount of wheat flour is added to soba as well. The proportions may vary, of course. So you should read the labels carefully if you’re looking for a specific ratio.
3. Flavour and texture
Udon noodles have a rather neutral flavour which makes it easier to play around and create interesting combinations. When it comes to structure, udon strands are mild and chewy.
On the contrary, soba noodles have a rich nutty taste that benefits various recipes. Their amora and chewiness depend on the amount of buckwheat flour added. But they are typically not as mild as udon.
4. Nutritional value
When the concept of healthiness is concerned, soba noodles take the cake here. Since they are made of buckwheat flour, they have a lower gluten and calorie amount which is perfect for a healthy diet.
The main ingredient of udon noodles is wheat flour. Thus, they cannot be called gluten-free by any means. Nevertheless, they are very filling. So a bowl of udon can keep you full for a long time. Due to their mild structure, udon noodles digest easily and don’t cause a feeling of heaviness.
So, even though udon and soba noodles share some features, the udon vs soba noodles battle will never be over.
Hopefully, this article will help you to sort out all the differences between udon and soba. Knowing this, you can broaden your cultural horizons, become much more aware of Japanese cuisine or, simply choose the right time of noodles for your next meal.