Udon noodles count among traditional noodles eaten in Japan from ancient times. Specifically, Udon noodles refer to the wheat-flour noodles with some thickness and width, or the dishes cooked by including the noodles.
Udon noodles are made from dough made by mixing two types of wheat-flour, soft wheat-flour and semi-hard wheat-flour, and applying some salts. The noodles loses the majority of the salt added to the dough while being boiled. The boiled noodles are served in an Udon-bowl filled with 'soup broth' (such soup broth is especially called 'Udontsuyu' in Japanese, and this type of dish is called Kake-Udon). In western Japan, soup broth is mainly made from broth prepared by using Konbu (a kind of kelp used for broth) and boiled-dried fish, which is seasoned with light-colored soy sauce. On the other hand, in eastern Japan, soup broth is mainly made from broth prepared by Konbu and dried bonito, which is seasoned with dark-colored soy sauce.
Regarding Udon noodles as simple everyday dishes, substitutes for boiled rice, and foods of 'hare and ke' (unusual events and daily events) served at festive events, Japanese people nationwide have eaten them from ancient times. Cooking methods and toppings vary from region to region.
As for dried noodles, "Quality Labeling Standard for instant noodles" of Japan Agricultural Standards (JAS) stipulates that if machine was used during the manufacturing process; well kneaded dough made by mixing wheat-flour with salt and water is cut long and thin like tape, and then dried, the resulting noodles are classified into "Kikaimen" (noodles made by machine).
Furthermore, of those Kikaimen, molded noodles with a diameter of 1.7mm or more are defined as 'Udon noodles.'
Meanwhile, molded noodles from 1.3mm to less than 1.7mm in diameter are classified into 'Hiyamugi' (wheat noodles cooled on ice), which are also sold by using the trade name of 'Hoso-Udon' (thin udon noodles). "Tenobe-Udon" (hand-stretched udon noodles) is made by the following process: Well-kneaded dough, made by mixing flour with salt and water, is twisted and stretched after applying starch, cooking oil or flour, and then dried and matured. The matured dough is molded into cylindrical shape or tape shape with a diameter of 1.7mm or more. Furthermore, "Tenobe-Udon" is requested to fulfill particulars stated in "Japanese Agricultural Standards for dried noodle stretched by hands."
Concerning fresh noodles, boiled noodles and other type of noodles (including half-dried noodles and frozen noodles), there is no standard in the manufacturing process. "Fair Competition Codes concerning labeling on fresh noodles" stipulates, "In this code, regardless of trade names such as Hiramen (thin noodles), Hiyamugi, Somen (fine white noodles), 'Udon noodles' refers to either type of noodles, noodles made from well-kneaded flour mixed with water, or processed noodles."
'Hiyamugi' and 'Somen' are classified into Udon noodles in the codes, and therefore in the narrow sense, it can be explained as 'only Udon noodles having the categories of fresh noodles and boiled noodles.'
However, the codes also stipulate in a separate paragraph, "other trade names are applicable so as to prevent general consumers from misidentifying," which enables manufacturers to use other trade names such as 'Hiyamugi' and 'Somen.'
In the past, 'Hoso-Udon' (literally, thin Udon noodles) and 'Hiyamugi,' both of which are thin noodles, were clearly distinguished by the differences in the manufacturing process (whether the dough is stretched by a rolling pin or machine before cutting, whether the dough is molded into cylindrical shape before stretching, and others), as well as by the social notion. However, at present, the nominal distinction between 'Udon noodles' (Hoso-Udon) and 'Hiyamugi' has partly become vague, because such distinction is entrusted to the traders concerned as far as they observe the standard and codes.
Opinion is divided on the first appearance of Udon noodles, which has still been unsettled.
In "Shinsenjikyo" (Chinese-Japanese character dictionary) completed in the Heian period, Sakubei (sweets originating in China), one of 14 sorts of Kabei (sweets made with rice-flour) that was introduced from China to Japan by Japanese envoys to Tang Dynasty China in the Nara period, was called 'Muginawa.'
Muginawa' is believed to have been the origin of noodles in Japan. Meanwhile, Muginawa was made from the mixture of rice and wheat-flour. In the Kamakura period, Zen priests like Shoichi Kokushi, who went to the Sung dynasty, introduced thin noodles made from wheat-flour to Japan via Hakata, which was the origin of 'Kirimugi' (wheat cut noodles). There is a description in 'Sekiso Orai' (Basic encyclopedia) written by Kanera (aka. Kaneyoshi) ICHIJO during the Muromachi period, 'Somen is steamed hot, while Kirimugi is washed in coldwater,' which strongly supports the theory that Kirimugi is the predecessor of Udon noodles.
There is also a theory that Udon noodles originated in 'Konton' a kind of sweet dumpling introduced from China by Japanese envoys to the Tang Dynasty during the Nara period.
Moreover, there is a legend that Kobo Daishi (a posthumous title of the priest Kukai) introduced Udon noodles from Tang Dynasty to the Shikoku region, which later became Sanuki Udon (Udon noodles of Kagawa Prefecture).
The term 'Udon' was applied to those noodles after the Edo period came. Nurumugi,' which indicates heated Kirimugi, and 'Hiyamugi,' which indicates chilled Kirimugi, were both referred to as Udon.
According to 'Udon-no-rekishi' (The History of Udon noodles) written by Masaru AOKI, the Chinese equivalent for Won-on (Chinese dumpling) is written as '餛飩' (pronounced 'Konton') in Chinese characters, which is also written as '餫飩' (pronounced 'Unton' or 'Konton'). The Chinese characters '餫飩' were later replaced by '温飩' with the same pronunciation 'Unton,' which is believed to be the origin of '饂飩' (pronounced 'Udon').
Ayao OKUMURA said that Udon noodles are the Japanese original noodles evolved from Kirimugi (today's Hiyamugi) introduced from China. He also said that Chinese never ate heated Udon noodles with dipping broth. He added that 'Konton' appearing in literature during the Heian period referred to a flour-made bun containing ground meat, not Udon noodles. Udon noodles first appeared in literature during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan) by the name of 'Utom,' he also said.
Although some people may believe that Udon is the specialty of western Japan, while Soba (buckwheat noodles) is of eastern Japan, they are wrong. As for reasons, there are lots of regions famous for the production of Udon noodles in eastern Japan. Furthermore, a Soba shop 'Sunaba' started business in Osaka in 1584, which resulted in the development of the Soba culture in western Japan. Some theories suggest that Soba culture developed in western Japan spread from west to east during the Edo period.
Udon noodles were popular among ordinary people in the city of Edo during the Edo period. Especially in the early Edo period, Soba was generally eaten as Soba-dumplings (Sobagaki), because Soba-noodles (Sobakiri) had not become popular yet.
(However, there is a description of 'Mr. KANENAGA donating Sobakiri' on the list of donations for cerebrating the completion of restoration work of a building in early 1574, which suggests that Sobagaki was cut in thin noodle-shape at that time.)
Therefore, it seems that Udon noodles were more popular than Soba. However, Udon noodles lost its position as the leading noodles by making room for Soba for the following reasons: (1) Soba became popular noodles later, (2) Soba and Soba shops created a unique culture, (3) people willingly ate Soba for fear of contracting beriberi, and so on.
Meanwhile, in the Kinki region such as Osaka, Kyoto, Udon noodles boast unchanged popularity with men and women of all ages, regarded as the leading noodles. This is because the Kinki region satisfied ideal conditions for producing delicious Udon noodles as follows: (1) lots of areas in this region such as Harima and Kawachi have produced high quality wheat since the period earlier than the modern age, (2) in contrast to the Kanto region where hard water was mainly supplied because of volcanic ash soil peculiar to the loamy layer of the Kanto district, the ground water pumped up in the Kinki region was soft water enjoying good compatibility with Konbu. Therefore, in the Kansai region, especially in Osaka, Udon noodles culture puts emphasis on broth rather than noodles (mentioned later). As a result, elastic and soft noodles were preferred, because such noodles easily absorb broth. Noodles in the Kansai region are often criticized for inelasticity (especially, it is conspicuously compared with Sanuki Udon), but they have the above-mentioned cultural background.
At present, both in the Tokyo area and in the Kinki region, Udon noodles are served in long-established Udon shops and their branch shops. There are lots of shops named 'Soba-ya' (Soba shop) nationwide where both Udon noodles and Soba are listed on the menu, however in the Kinki region, such shops are named 'Udon-ya' (Udon noodles shop) because customers order Udon noodles more frequently than Soba.
However, even in the Kanto region, there are some exceptional areas including the Tama area of Tokyo, namely Musashino area (Kodaira City, Higashimurayama City, etc.), the western and northern parts of Saitama Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture, where not a few shops put emphasis on Udon noodles rather than Soba. Actually, a rank list of regions with a large production of Udon noodles in fiscal 2004 shows that Kagawa Prefecture known for Sanuki Udon won first prize followed by Saitama Prefecture. Gunma Prefecture also came out among the best five in the rank list. These areas have boasted extensive cultivation of wheat by introducing the two-crop system, and therefore Udon noodles have been recognized as a daily meal.
According to the Kagawa Prefecture Agricultural Administration and Fisheries Department, it observed the Sanuki Udon boom four times during the period from the latter half of the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Moreover, branch shops serving Sanuki Udon-styled Udon noodles successively started business after the first opening in the national capital region in 2002. This boom continued until around 2005. There are many shops serving only Udon noodles in Kagawa Prefecture, while there are very few shops serving both Soba and Udon noodles.
As people in western Japan are fond of eating Udon noodles with Inarizushi (fried tofu stuffed with vinegared rice), most Udon shops in the region provide Inarizushi. Even stand-up-eating Udon shops commonly provide a small plate of two small Inarizushi. Furthermore, in the Kinki region, many shops serve Udon noodles with Kayaku-gohan, mixed rice (boiled rice is served when customers ordered Curry Udon [Udon noodles with curry soup]) by applying the name of Udon Teishoku (set meal) to such a dish.
Chopped leeks may be the standard seasoning for Udon noodles. Leeks used as seasoning depends upon the kind of leeks produced in the region. White scallion is preferably used in the Kanto region, while long green onions, wakegi (species of scallion), etc. are used in the Kinki region.
While pepper had been used as a spice for Udon noodles until the middle of the Edo period, powdery red pepper (cayenne pepper powder and shichimi togarashi [a mixture of red cayenne pepper and other aromatic spices]) has become the most popular spice since the early modern age. Grated ginger is also used along with chopped leeks.
There are some differences in Udon noodle soup broth between the Kanto and the Kinki regions. Depending upon the kind of soy sauce used, the color of soup broth differs.
In the Kanto region, a basic sauce called "Kaeshi" is inevitably used for soup broth, made by heating up dark-colored soy sauce while applying Mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) and sugar (some restaurants use 'Nama-Kaeshi' [literally, raw Kaeshi], unheated basic sauce). Soup broth in the Kanto region is cooked by diluting this Kaeshi with broth made mainly from Konbu and dried bonito. Moreover, traditional Udon noodles served in all Kanto except for the central part of Tokyo, mostly use soup broth made from boiled-dried fish and dried Shiitake Mushrooms, seasoned by soy sauce or miso (fermented soybean paste). The color of soup broth is deep and glossy.
Before the appearance of soy sauce-made Kaeshi, soup broth called "Taremiso" was used to eat Udon noodles in the Muromachi period when people had already been eating Udon noodles. Taremiso was made as follows: miso is boiled down with water, and then put into a sack made of cloth and hung down. There were two kinds of soup broth made from Taremiso, one was called "Nama-tare" (literally, raw soup broth) made from unheated Taremiso, and the other was called "Ninuki" (literally, simmered soup broth) made by simmering the "Nama-tare" with shavings of dried bonito (refer to the sentence of "Mentsuyu" for the history of soup broth).
In the Kinki region, basic ingredients for making soup broth include Konbu, dried mackerel, dried bonito. Shitake Mushrooms and dried sardines (boiled-dried fish) are also used. Shiitake Mushrooms are helpful to enhance the sweetness, while dried sardines give a sharp taste. Light-colored soy sauce is frequently used. The color of soup broth is light and clear. Such soup broth is commonly called 'Dashi,' not 'Tsuyu' in Japanese. In general, the term 'Tsuyu' indicates the seasoning used for eating "Tsukemen" (noodles eaten with dipping broth) and so on.
An increasing number of Udon shops in the Tokyo area these days may exert influence on some shops, because they provide two types of soup broth, 'Kanto type' and 'Kansai type.'
As a special case, a stand-up-eating Udon noodles shop established on the platform of Hiratsuka Station, Kanagawa Prefecture uses only light-taste soup broth resembling the so-called 'Kansai type.'
In a TV program broadcasted on October 28, 2001 "Tokoro san no Megaten" (theme: Mystery of bland taste of Udon noodles served in Osaka), the amount of soy sauce and salt involved in soup broth were studied by comparing the Udon noodles cooked by Udon noodle shops in the Kansai region (Osaka) and those in the Kanto region (Tokyo). The study showed that soup broth in the Kanto region used four times or more soy sauce than used in the Kansai region, and the former used twice or more salt than the latter. There are other opinions.
Boundary between areas using Kanto type soup broth and those using Kansai type
There are various theories about where the boundary is between areas using Kanto type soup broth and those using Kansai type soup broth, such as a Maibara City, Shiga Prefecture theory, Sekigahara-cho (a town situated on the boundary between Shiga Prefecture and Gifu Prefecture) theory, an Oi-gawa River (people in the Edo period found difficulty in wading across Oi-gawa River) theory, and so on. Another theory suggests a different type of soup broth, Tokai type or Nagoya type, existing in addition to the Kanto and Kansai types, by regarding the Tokai region as an area with separate Udon noodle cultures, not as an area merely lying halfway between the Kanto and Kansai regions.
Boundary between the soup broth and transportation
Some TV programs conducted studies in the past about the boundary between areas that use Kanto type soup broth and those that use Kansai type soup broth at Soba and Udon noodles shops in the station precincts of the Tokaido Shinkansen and JR Tokaido Main Line and surrounding areas.
JR Tokaido Main Line and surrounding areas
A TV program "Kurabete mireba" (broadcast by Japan Broadcasting Corporation, the day is uncertain) reported that noodle shops serving Kanto type soup broth and those serving Kansai type soup broth overlap in Aichi and Gifu prefectures. It also reported that some Udon noodle shops in Gamagori City asked customers about the kind of soup broth they like when taking orders.
According to an hour 'Mezamashi chosatai' in a TV program "Mezamashi terebi" broadcast April 25, 2002, the boundary between the Kanto type soup broth and the Kansai type soup broth was reportedly in the vicinity of Sekigahara.
The thickness of soup broth served in the Udon noodle shop at each station along the Tokaido Shinkansen railroad was studied in a TV program "Tamori Club, sayonara the twentieth century special" (a ninety minute long special version, broadcast by TV Asahi) broadcast on December 22, 2000. According to the program, Udon noodle shops at the stations from Kanto to Tokai served the so-called Kanto-type thick soup broth. Particularly, the thickness gradually increased when reporters heading west for Toyohashi Station from Odawara Station (stations in this section served the thickest soup broth among all). Soup broth reportedly became a little thinner at the Udon noodle shops in Mikawa-Anjo Station, the next station from Toyohashi Station. Moreover, the thickness of the soup broth served at the Station next to Nagoya was almost the same at Mikawa-Anjo Station. It also added that the soup broth served at the station next to Gifu-Hashima Station became much thinner than at Nagoya Station. Furthermore, Udon noodle shops next to Maibara Station and stations situated further west reportedly served thin soup broth, the vary Kansai-type of soup broth.
A TV program broadcast on October 28, 2001, "Tokoro san no Megaten" (theme: Mystery of bland tasting Udon served in Osaka) made a trip to solve the mystery of color change of soup broth served by the Udon noodle shops at each station along the Tokaido Shinkansen railroad. According to the program, the color of soup broth changed from Kanto type dark-colored to Kansai type thick-colored at Maibara Station.
Based on these reports, as for Udon noodles shops relating to the railway, it is conceivable that those ranging from Tokyo to Sekigahara, namely shops in Nagoya Station, Gifu Station, Ogaki Station and other stations spreading to the east, use Kanto-type, dark-colored soy sauce, while those ranging west from Maibara Station, namely shops in the Osaka side, use Kansai-type, light-colored soy sauce. Furthermore, there is also a boundary between Kanto-type soup broth and Kansai-type soup broth on the Kansai Line, Hokuriku Line, Kise line, and so on.
Furthermore, a boundary between Kanto-type soup broth and Kansai-type soup broth also exists in the Japan Sea area. When a local TV program in Toyama Prefecture studied the color of soup broth sold at highway service areas and parking lots within Toyama Prefecture in the past, it became clear that the color became thinner as the detected areas headed west. In addition, reports made by a TV program 'Onozawa Yuko no iki-iki wide' broadcast on Niigata Television Network 21, Inc. also suggested that the boundary is in Toyama Prefecture.
Cup Udon (instant Japanese wheat noodles purchased in cup)
Soup broth included in Cup Udon also has a boundary, classifiable by regions.
Classification by the shape of noodles
Ippon Udon (literally, one long piece of Udon noodle) is made by pressing the dough down, without cutting or stretching.
Futo-Udon (thick Udon noodles)
Hoso-Udon (thin Udon noodles)
Hirauchi-Udon: Thin and wide (about 10 to 30mm wide) Udon noodles
Udon noodles with a unique shape are sometimes used as well.
Classification by manufacturing methods of Udon noodles
Teuchi (kneading by hands) or Ashiuchi (kneading by stepping with soles of the feet)
Thinly extended dough kneaded by human strength is folded and then cut with a kitchen knife. In general, this is the so-called 'Teuchi Udon' (thick hand kneaded Udon noodles). Being very particular about making noodles, many Udon noodles shops still knead dough by hand. Meanwhile, some regions and some shops knead the dough by stepping on it with their feet.
The term "Teuchi" includes two meanings, one is kneading dough by hand, and the other is cutting the kneaded dough with cutting tools.
Kikaiuchi (kneading by machine)
Kikaiuchi indicates the Udon noodles made by using noodle making machines. Most Udon noodles sold commercially or cooked in cheap Udon noodle shops are kneaded by machines.
Tenobe (stretching by hand)
Tenobe is a technique for making Udon noodles like Somen, in which dough, cylindrically shaped, is hung on two chopsticks at the both ends, and then stretched and bundled repeatedly. The dough is stretched thin like cord in the end, and then dried. Now, these procedures, excluding some procedures requiring working by hand, have been turned over to labor-saving machines (the principle is the same). The food texture is smooth. If hand-stretched dough is dried by hanging on bamboo, the curved parts made by the impression of the bamboo remain as a by-product. The by-product, called Fushimen, is barely seen in the marketplace, even though being preferred by some people.
Classifying according to the condition of the noodles
Tama-Udon is made as follows: Fresh Udon noodles are boiled in hot water, soon after they are shaped to prevent further maturing, and then divided into smaller bunches adequate for one meal. As the Udon noodles are shaped round, they are called 'tama,' literally meaning 'ball' (the term 'tama' is also used as a unit for measuring Udon noodles like 'hito-tama, futa-tama' [Udon noodles for one eater, Udon noodles for two eaters, in that order]). Tama-Udon is boiled again for a short period in hot water immediately before eating, and served after draining the water off. It is unsuitable for long preservation because it contains plenty of water. Bagged Tama-Udon is sold by the trade name of 'Yude-Udon' (boiled Udon noodles) even in supermarkets, convenience stores, and so on. They enjoy a high share among noodles sold commercially because of the convenience. However, Yude-Udon is inferior to other noodles in eating quality, because noodles of the former swell a little. Meanwhile, stand-up-eating Udon noodle shops, expected to operate as fast-food places, mostly use Yude-Udon to shorten the time required to prepare the bowls, as much as possible.
Some instant Udon noodles sold in cups or bags are made by boiling noodles mixed with vinegar or ethyl alcohol (both of which act as preservatives), and then vacuum-packed.
Nama-Udon (fresh Udon noodles)
Thick Udon noodles and thin and wide Udon noodles are frequently sold in fresh condition. After being shaped, noodles are packaged as they are, or after being sprinkled with some flour. While fresh Udon noodles have excellent eating quality, they are unsuitable for long preservation because they maturing advances with time. With the aim of curbing maturing and oxidization as much as possible, some fresh Udon noodles are packed with a deoxidizer. They are boiled in hot water immediately before eating, and served after draining the water off.
Hannama-Udon (half-dried Udon noodles)
Sanuki Udon is mostly sold in a half-dry condition. Boiling time is strictly regulated to twelve minutes or more in Sanuki Udon, which creates excellent eating quality keeping its elasticity. Half-dried Udon noodles are often packed with a deoxidizer. The noodles are boiled in hot water immediately before eating, the water is drained off and the noodles are tightened in running water before serving. The planting of wheat exclusively used for making half-dried Udon noodles is increasing.
Hoshi-Udon (dried Udon noodles)
It is also called 'Kanmen' in general. Thin udon noodles are mostly sold in dried condition. While pursuing an easy method of preservation, dried Udon noodles are dried after shaping and then made even in a stick shape of around 20cm long. In cooking, the dried noodles are restored by boiling. They are boiled in hot water immediately before eating, and served after draining the water off.
Reito-Udon (frozen Udon noodles)
There are two types of frozen Udon noodles, one is made by rapidly freezing fresh Udon noodles soon after they are boiled, and the other is made by rapidly freezing the fresh Udon noodles without boiling. The latter type is exclusively called "Reito-Nama-Udon" (frozen fresh Udon noodles). Generally, once the noodles are frozen, they lose their eating quality, because the molecular structure in the noodles breaks down from water that expands when below freezing. Therefore, to maintain elasticity after restoration, starch like tapioca is used as a thickener in frozen Udon noodles, which provides a higher calorie count than with other kinds of Udon noodles. Frozen Udon noodles are spreading widely for convenience and comparatively good eating quality.
Instant noodles such as deep-fried noodles
Aiming at immediate restoration in hot water, instant Udon noodles contained in a cup or a bag are made by introducing several techniques such as deep-frying in oil, freeze-drying or heated-air drying after boiling. Their strength is a long storage life and convenience.
Warmed Udon noodles
Popular Udon noodles
After being boiled, the noodles are washed to remove the sliminess and then tightened in cold water. The noodles are then warmed over by soaking in hot water. Then, warm soup broth is poured onto the noodles. In some cases, toppings are applied.
Without being tightened in cold water, the boiled noodles are served as they are with soy sauce or relatively thick soup broth, and with seasonings added like chopped leeks, a raw egg, etc.
Nabeyaki-Udon (noodles served hot in a pan) typifies Nikomi-Udon. There are two cooking methods, one is simmering fresh noodles and the other is simmering boiled noodles. In both methods, Udon noodles are simmered for comparatively long time to allow the taste of the soup broth soak into the noodles.
In Bukkake-Udon, boiled Udon noodles are served as they are and by pouring in non-heat-treated soy sauce or soup broth. In Bukkake-Udon, simple seasonings, such as grated daikon radish and dried bonito are preferably chosen to enjoy the taste of the noodles, like in Zaru-Udon (cold noodles with dipping broth). There are also chilled Bukkake-Udon.
Chilled Udon noodles
In the wide sense, "Hiyashi-Udon" is a general term for 'Udon chilled to eat,' while in the narrow sense, it is used as a term with the following meanings according to regions and shops. All dishes introduced hereafter are mostly limited to the summer season.
Hiyashi-Udon refers to the Udon noodles put into a bowl with ice water (or cold water) for maintaining the coldness as long as possible. The noodles are eaten like Zaru-Udon with relatively thick soup broth, seasonings, etc.
Hiyashi-Udon is served in a bowl or a dish with various toppings after pouring in chilled soup broth. Hiyashi Tanuki' (cold noodles with bits of tempura batter) and 'Hiyashi Kitsune' (cold noodles with fried tofu) typify Hiyashi-Udon.
Some regions and shops refer to this type of dish, Hiyashi-Udon with chilled soup broth, as 'Hiyahiya.'
Zaru-Udon and Mori-Udon
Like Zaru-Soba (soba topped with sliced nori seaweed served on a sieve-like bamboo tray), Udon noodles are washed to remove the sliminess after boiled, chilled in cold water and then served on a sieve-like bamboo tray. This cooking method enables one to enjoy the flavor of wheat-flour.
Served cold and with a relatively thick soup broth, sesame sauce, or other spices. As for seasonings, grated ginger, toasted sesame seeds, chopped Japanese ginger, etc. are preferred as well as chopped leeks.
These Udon noodles are also served with a warm dipping broth like Tsukemen. Such eating style is popular in regions manufacturing Musashino Udon noodles as well as in north Kanto.
In Bukkake-Udon, boiled Udon noodles are eaten as they are after pouring non-heat-treated soy sauce or soup broth. In Bukkake-Udon, simple seasonings, such as grated daikon radish and dried bonitos are preferably chosen to enjoy the taste of noodles, like in Zaru-Udon. They are also warmed to eat.
Salad-Udon (chilled noodles and vegetables)
Generally, Salad-Udon is cooked as follows: soup broth is first poured over the chilled noodles, and then several kinds of vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes are added, and finally, mayonnaise or salad dressing with a taste of sesame or other seasoning is added.
Other ways to eat
Yaki-Udon is an Udon noodle version of Yakisoba (fried soba).
Age-Udon is made from fresh Udon noodles cut in the length of several centimeters, which are deep-fried like French fries, and then seasoned with salt or sugar, etc. They are served as snacks to nibble on for drinking beer.
Meanwhile, Sara-Udon (Nagasaki dish of noodles with various toppings) is not classified as Udon noodles despite the name of "Udon."
Kake Udon and Su Udon
However, in the wide sense, 'Kake Udon' generally means Udon noodles in hot soup broth, including Udon noodles with various toppings as follows. When the term 'Kake Udon' was specifically used to distinguish it from other Udon noodles, it indicated Udon noodles in hot soup broth without toppings (the same Udon noodles as 'Su Udon' in the Kansai region).
Kayaku Udon, Gomoku Udon, and Okame Udon
These Udon noodles are cooked with several kinds of toppings called 'Tanemono' or 'Kayaku.'
Gomoku Udon' includes various toppings such as Naruto (a kind of Kamaboko, steamed fish paste), spinach, chicken. Especially, Udon noodles with many kinds of toppings (more than eight different toppings) are often called 'Okame Udon' (derived from 'Okame hachimoku,' a Japanese proverb meaning bystander can judge the situation easier than the person concerned) in Tokyo and some areas of the western Japan. Toppings are frequently called 'Kayaku' in the Kansai region.
In the Kanto region, Udon noodles with toppings are called 'Tanemono.'
Kitsune Udon is topped with seasoned deep-fried bean curd. It is also called 'Ketsune' or ' Shinoda Udon' in some regions.
Kizami Udon is topped with deep-fried bean curd cut into strips. However, deep-fried bean curd put on top of the noodles is sometimes unseasoned. In the Kinki region, Kizami Udon is distinguished from Kitsune Udon on the menu. Nakau Company, Limited, a Gyudon (rice covered with beef and vegetables) restaurant chain, once listed Kizami Udon on the menu for Udon noodles.
Tsukimi Udon means Udon noodles in soup broth topped with a broken raw egg. The term "Tsukimi" (literally meaning, enjoying the beautiful moon) comes from the appearance of a poached egg, namely the white of the egg is likened to a cloud, while the yellow yoke to the moon. A piece of Nori (dried seaweed) likened to the night sky is sometimes laid under the egg.
It is also called 'Tamago (egg) Toji Udon.'
Toji Udon indicates that noodles and soup broth are topped by a soft-boiled egg. Besides such orthodox Toji Udon, 'Konoha Udon,' Udon noodles topped with a soft-boiled egg, covered with mitsuba (an umbelliferous plant resembling stone parsley), slices of boiled fish paste and Shitake Mushrooms, and 'Ume Toji Udon,' Udon noodles topped with a soft-boiled egg and an Umeboshi (pickled plum) are also included in Toji-Udon.
Tempura Udon is topped with tempura (Japanese deep-fried dish, prawn and squid are often used as ingredients), Kakiage (deep-fried vegetable strips, shrimp, etc.) and so on. Some shop put Satsuma-age (fried fish cake) on it.
In instant Udon noodles or Udon noodles served in cheap stand-up-eating shops, simple Tempura-like food is often used to save costs and for other reasons, which is merely molded and hardened Tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep-fried dough produced as a byproduct of cooking tempura) gathered from the surface of the oil.
Tanuki Udon varies from region to region. In general, Tanuki Udon refers to Udon noodles topped with Tenkasu. Meanwhile, in Kyoto, Tanuki Udon refers to Udon noodles topped with deep-fried bean curd cut into strips, thick starchy sauce and grated ginger. In many shops in Osaka and Kagawa, 'Tanuki Udon' is not on the menu. As for the reason, Udon noodles topped with Tenkasu is sometimes called by another name "Haikara Udon" in Osaka. In addition, many shops in Osaka (the north part of Kyushu region is also similar) always set containers filled with chopped leeks and Tenkasu on each table, allowing customers to use them as much as they like. Therefore, in general, they find less need for a special name for Udon noodles and Soba topped with Tenkasu. In Osaka and Kagawa, the term 'Tanuki' is used only for 'Tanuki Soba' (Soba noodles topped with deep-fried bean curd).
Curry Udon is Udon noodles in soup cooked by one of two methods, one is curry-flavored soup made by adding curry powder to the soup broth, and the other is by diluting Japanese style curry with soup broth. Curry namban' is a Soba version of Curry Udon. However, now some shops list both 'Curry namban Udon' and 'Curry namban Soba' on the same menu.
Furthermore, some shops have referred to 'Curry namban Udon,' namely Curry Udon, as 'Curry namban.'
The term 'Namban' means red peppers in Japanese, but Curry namban came from 'namba,' which indicates a long green onion (similar to 'Kamo namban' or noodles with slices of duck in the broth, and 'Kashiwa namban' or noodles with pieces of chicken in broth). Originally, 'namba' referred to long green onion growing in the neighborhood of Namba, Osaka City.
Even now, some shops still use the term 'namba,' such as 'Kamo namba' instead of 'Kamo namban' and 'Curry namba' instead of 'Curry namban.'
Furthermore, some shops refer to curry-flavored Udon noodles using onion instead of long green onion as 'Curry Udon' for making a distinction.
In the Kinki region, soup is made by adding curry powder to flavorful Kansai-styled soup broth seasoned with light-colored soy sauce. The soup is thickened with Katakuriko flour (potato starch) or wheat-flour. The main ingredients are beef, long green onion and onion. Some shops add deep-fried bean curd.
Curry Udon is sometimes cooked by simply pouring curry sauce cooked for "curry and rice" over Udon noodles. Such Curry Udon is often served at inexpensive eating places, refectories for students, folksy Udon noodles shops, etc., where curry sauce of "curry and rice" is converted to a soup for Curry Udon. Moreover, Curry Udon is also prepared by pouring curry sauce diluted with soup broth, or by merely pouring curry sauce over the noodles soaked in a half a bowl amount of soup broth.
Meanwhile, Curry Udon was first prepared during the Meiji period, but it was seemingly regarded as a bizarre food at first. At present, Curry Udon has become such a popular item on the menu that the majority of Udon noodles shops serve it. Different versions of Curry Udon, such as Curry Udon with cheese, are now available.
When eating Curry Udon, one often unintentionally stains their clothes with splashes of curry soup by letting noodles slip off chopsticks or letting curry soup splash from a bowl (some people detest stains so much that they refrain from eating Curry Udon). Therefore, some shops provide paper aprons exclusively for customers ordering Curry Udon.
Shops with Yaki-Udon on the menu sometimes cook "Dry Curry Udon" by adding curry powder as a seasoning to stir-fried noodles.
Biei-cho, Kamikawa Sub-prefectural Office, Hokkaido Government utilizes its original Curry Udon for promoting tourism by terming it 'Biei Curry Udon.'
This original Curry Udon was designed taking advantage of the fact that the region is a production area of wheat and vegetables. Like Zaru Udon, chilled noodles are eaten by dipping them into curry sauce instead of soup broth. Biei Curry Udon' is characterized by thick noodles and plenty of ingredients such as vegetables contained in the curry sauce.
Niku Udon is topped with beef, chicken, pork or horsemeat that is boiled and seasoned with soy sauce. In general, the meat is simmered with a lot of sugar and salt.
Chikara Udon (also called 'Kachin Udon')
Chikara Udon is topped with mochi (rice cake). Other kinds of toppings are frequently added along with mochi. Chikara Udon is called 'Kachin Udon' in the Kinki region, because the term 'Kachin' refers to 'mochi' in court-lady language. Roasted rice cake is conventionally included, but deep-fried rice cake is also included now-a-days.
Shippoku Udon served in Kyoto is topped with Shitake Mushrooms simmered in soy sauce, slices of steamed fish paste, Yuba (bean curd skin), Ita-fu (gluten cakes baked into sheets), Mitsuba and so on. It is soup broth like that used for other Udon noodles. Shippoku Udon is a traditional dish in Sanuki, Kyoto and so on, but toppings and soup stock vary from region to region. "Suppoko Udon" in Yamagata City is presumed to be the same dish as Shippoku Udon, because 'Shippoku' is pronounced as 'Suppoko' in the local accent. Referring to the Shippoku cuisine (Special Chinese cuisine in Nagasaki Prefecture), Shippoku Udon was designed in the Keihan area during the Edo period.
Ankake Udon is covered by thick starchy sauce made of soup broth thickened by Kuzu (arrowroot) or Katakuriko flour.
In Kyoto, Udon noodles topped with deep-fried bean curd cut into strips, thick starchy sauce and grated ginger is called 'Tanuki-Udon.'
Meanwhile, 'Tanuki-Udon' without deep-fried bean curd is called by another name 'Ankake Udon.'
Odamaki Udon is a savory custard cup with Udon noodles.
A savory custard cup with Udon noodles is called 'Odamaki Mushi.'
However, 'Odamaki Udon' is classified as Udon noodles. Odamaki' is often written as '小田巻' in Chinese characters. Meanwhile, a theory suggests that the Chinese character '苧環' (fan columbine) is the origin of 'Odamaki' because the appearance of Udon noodles rolled into a ball looks like hemp yarn rolled into a hollow ball. It is said that Odamaki Udon, quite popular in Osaka until the Taisho period, was an extremely expensive dish. However, its laborious recipe was detested. As a result, only a few Udon shops list Odamaki Udon on their regular menu at present.
It is also called 'Zosui Udon.'
Literally, Ojiya Udon is a combination of Ojiya (rice gruel seasoned with miso or soy sauce) and Udon noodles. It is believed that Usami-tei Matsubaya, the originator of Kitsune Udon, innovated Ojiya Udon.
Nabeyaki Udon refers to Udon noodles simmered in an earthenware pot in principle, while those sold in supermarkets, etc. come in aluminum-made pots (plate). When customers ask Soba shops or Udon noodles shops to deliver Nabeyaki Udon, they may be asked whether they prefer simmered Udon noodles or regular Udon noodles.
It is also called 'Gyusuki Udon,' etc. Gyunabe Udon is prepared by putting Udon noodles in Sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, cooked with various vegetables on a table with a built-in cast-iron grill). Ingredients used to cook Gyunabe Udon are similar to those in Sukiyaki, such as beef, onion, yakidofu (grilled bean curd), and sometimes garland chrysanthemum. Gyunabe Udon are eaten by dipping them into a beaten egg.
Special regional Udon noodles in Japan
Each region has their own Udon noodles regarded as a special dish cherished because of the suitable soil and climate for growing wheat by local industries such as brewing industries of soy sauce and fisheries, as well as by merchants and others involved in distribution. In addition, Udon noodles eaten as a specialty of the region in village revitalization campaigns are also good examples.
Inaniwa Udon, dried Udon noodles in Akita Prefecture, is made by the hand-stretching method. Inaniwa Udon is a little thicker than Hiyamugi. For the process, Inaniwa Udon is characterized by using starch for Uchiko (flour scattered on a board in order to prevent the noodles from sticking) without using vegetable oil. In addition, they are flat noodles, resulting from a mashing process that takes place ahead of the drying process. The texture is smooth. According to 'Inaniwa Kokin Jiseki-shi' (record of Inaniwa-cho) that has a description of Inaniwa Udon, Ichibe SATO living in the Kozawa hamlet, Inaniwa village, Akita Domain (now Aza Kozawa, Inaniwa-cho, Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture) invented Inaniwa Udon prior to 1661. There are various theories about how the manufacturing method came to the region, such as a theory suggesting that it was introduced from Fukuoka via Japan Sea Trade. There is also a theory suggesting that Yamabushi (mountain priest) introduced the method.
Amattare Udon is made in Zao-machi, Miyagi Prefecture. Wheat produced in Hokkaido is used. Topped with chopped leeks and an egg yolk, Amattare Udon is mixed with a sweet dipping broth.
Hippari Udon is a local dish in Yamagata Prefecture. Hippari Udon is served with a dipping broth containing fermented soybeans, canned mackerel, etc.
It is also called 'Hikizuri Udon.'
Okkirikomi is a bowl of simmering Udon noodles with vegetables, a specialty of Gunma Prefecture, north of Saitama Prefecture and the Chichibu area, where they are enjoying a powdered food culture materialized by the two-crop system.
Udon in Tatebayashi
Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture is now a wheat-producing area and the birthplace of the 'Head Office of Nisshin Seifun Group Inc. (original),' the predecessor of the 'Head Office of Nisshin Seifun Group Inc.'
Furthermore, the region has historically enjoyed the eating culture of Udon noodles (its on record that Udon noodles had been presented to the Shogun family as a specialty of Tatebayashi Domain since the middle of the Edo period). Based on this background, Udon noodles have been utilized as a regional resource for revitalizing the region since 1994. Tatebayashi Udon, is a hot-selling line of dried noodles, characterized by their varieties. A private Udon noodles shop serves Udon noodles topped with cocoon balls.
Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture is also a wheat-producing area. Thickish Kiryu Udon is produced in and around that area. Wide Udon noodles called 'Himokawa' count among Kiryu Udon. Besides being served as Zaru-Udon, Kiryu Udon is also served as 'Kinoko Udon' (Udon noodles with mushroom).
Mizusawa Udon is a special product of Mizusawa, Ikaho-machi, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture. Mizusawa Udon is characterized by its elasticity resulting from a maturing period lasting about fourteen days, between the periods of kneading and stretching the dough.
Mimi Udon is a local dish of Senba, Sano City (old Kuzu-machi), Tochigi Prefecture.
Kazo Udon is a local dish of Kazo City, Saitama Prefecture.
Hiyajiru Udon refers to a Zaru Udon-styled home-cooked meal mainly eaten in the summer season in and around Chichibu City including the western part of Saitama Prefecture, Omiya City, Kawagoe City, and Kazo City of Saitama Prefecture.
Musashino Udon is a traditional food of Saitama Prefecture and the Tama area. The noodles made from the wheat-flour produced in these regions are mostly blackish. Musashino Udon used to be eaten frequently because these regions boasted affluent wheat production. It is believed that old-established families in these regions used to serve Udon invariably on ceremonial occasions.
Hoto is a local recipe cooked throughout Yamanashi Prefecture. Hoto is cooked by simmering fresh Udon noodles covered with Uchiko (wide noodles made from inelastic dough that is affordable by kneading without applying salt) in miso soup, the main ingredients being seasonal vegetables such as pumpkin and root crops. Moreover, the soup has a slight viscosity due to its cooking method. However, in general, Hoto is classified as a powdered food dish like Oyaki (wrapping red bean paste or filling of vegetable up in flattering kneaded flour and buckwheat flour thinly and baking) and Oneri (kneaded stewed potato or pumpkin with corn flour seasoning with miso, bean paste, soy sauce and so on), rather than Udon noodles.
Yoshida Udon is a local dish cooked in Fujiyoshita City, Yamanashi Prefecture. Yoshida Udon is so elastic, hard, and wide that beginners may find difficulty in biting through the sipped noodles. It is served in a soup broth made from boiled dried fish and dried bonito and is seasoned with miso or soy sauce. The north foot of Mt. Fuji, where Fujiyoshita City is located, is inappropriate for rice cultivation because of its geographical features such as the cool climate and lava plateau. Instead, wheat is cultivated by utilizing underground water from the slopes of Mt. Fuji, and therefore powdered food dishes are popular in the area.
Oshibori Udon is a local dish cooked around Sakamaki-machi, Hanishina-gun County, Nagano Prefecture. It is served with a dipping broth made from juice of grated hot daikon (Japanese radish) named Nezumi Daikon (Japanese radish named after the shape with a thin tail being similar to a mouse) and is seasoned with Shinshu miso.
Himi Udon refers to the hand-stretched thin Udon noodles made in Himi City, Toyama Prefecture. Himi Udon boasts more than 250 years history since the Kaga Domain designated it as Udon noodles for presentation in the period of domain duties. Himi Udon is also called 'Ito Udon' (literally meaning, thread Udon) because of it's thinness. For making soup broth, local-made 'Ishiru,' fish sauce made from fish and shellfish is used. Since the name of 'Himi Udon' is registered as a trademark, ordinary shops are prohibited from using the name.
Koro Udon are chilled Udon noodles eaten with cold soup broth (called Koro) seasoned with mirin (sweet cooking rice wine) and soy sauce. It is similar to 'Bukkake Udon' of Sanuki Udon.
Kishimen, flat noodles, is a specialty of Nagoya. However, some people claim that Kishimen and 'Udon' noodles differ.
Miso-Nikomi Udon is a local dish of Aichi Prefecture, which is characterized by its soup broth seasoned with Aka-miso (dark-brown miso paste, also called Haccho-miso) and elastic noodles.
Ise Udon is a traditional food of Ise City, Mie Prefecture and its vicinity. Very thick Udon noodles are boiled softly, and then mixed with black and thick dipping broth.
Udon noodles in the Kansai region
Noodles are thin, soft, and inelastic. These characteristics are aimed at allowing the noodles to easily mix with the soup broth (in the Kansai region, soup broth is called Dashijiru) and the soup broth is easily to sip. Udon noodles in the Kansai region have a great emphasis on the soup broth rather than on the noodles. Therefore, each shop develops its own original soup broth adding various ingredients such as small dried sardines (round herring big-eye sardines, etc.), Shiitake mushrooms, shrimp, etc. to the basic ingredients, kelp and shavings of dried fish (dried bonito, dried mackerel, etc.). Meanwhile, soup broth subtly differs region by region despite being located within the same Kansai region; for example, soup broth in Kyoto is flavored simply by putting a little seafood broth, while in Osaka the flavor is more complex, adding lots of seafood broth with various hidden flavors. Basically, soup broth in the Kansai region is flavored so that customers drink it to the last drop as if they were drinking clear soup. In the Kansai region, Udon noodles are often served with rice and Sushi (sushi roll, Oshi-zushi [lightly-pressed piece of Sushi topped with cooked ingredients], Chirashi-zushi [Sushi with ingredients arranged on the surface of vinegar rice], etc.). Moreover, softly boiled Chinese noodles are often served with soup broth in the Kansai region. Going by the name of 'Kisoba' (literally meaning yellow noodles), those noodles are cherished by cheap restaurants and so on.
Kasu Udon is a popular dish of the Minamikawachi area in Osaka. Kasu Udon has a peculiar flavor because its soup broth contains 'Aburakasu,' deep-fried chopped plump small intestine of beef. An increasing number of shops in Osaka City have served this dish since the beginning of the 2000.
Kobu Udon is a popular dish served in Udon noodle shops in the Keihanshin area (Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe). Kobu Udon is topped with 'Tororo Konbu' (tangle flakes of Konbu kelp) or 'Oboro Konbu' (shredded Konbu kelp).
In the Kansai region, 'Konbu' (kelp) is frequently referred to as 'Kobu,' and therefore this dish is also called 'Kobu Udon' instead of 'Konbu Udon.'
After the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant, some stand-up-eating Udon noodle shops in Osaka City sold Kobu Udon by terming it 'Hoshano-yoke Udon' (udon noodles for protection against radioactivity).
Udon-suki looks like Yosenabe (a hot pot of chicken, seafood and vegetables cooked at the table) putting most emphasis on Udon noodles.
Bichu Udon is also referred to as Kamogata Udon, Bichu Kamogata Udon or Kamogawa Udon. Bichu Udon is made in Kamogata-cho, Asakuchi City, Okayama Prefecture and its vicinity. As these regions have produced hand-stretched noodles since long ago, hand-stretched Udon noodles are also produced in addition to hand-stretched Somen noodles and hand-stretched Hiyamugi noodles.
Bukkake-Udon in Kurashiki
A theory suggests that the Udon noodles presented to a local governor visiting Kurashiki, where was the bakufu-owned land during the Edo period, became the prototype of Bukkake-Udon. Originated in the soup broth of Soba in Edo, the soup broth poured on the Bukkake-Udon in Kurashiki is thicker and sweeter than in other neighboring regions like Sanuki. In addition, Bukkake-Udon in Kurashiki boasts a somewhat larger quantity of toppings. Bukkake-Udon was a local dish in Kurashiki City since long ago. Bukkake-Udon in Kurashiki has become widely known nationwide since a local Udon noodles shop 'Furuichi' put it on sale as a specialty of Kurashiki.
Shino Udon is another name forUdon noodles 'Hitosuji Hitowan' (literally, one long piece of Udon noodle in an Udon bowl) eaten by ascetic monks of a famous temple, Entsu-ji Temple (Kurashiki City) of the Soto sect in Tamashima, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture during the Edo period.
Naruto Udon is a local dish of Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture and its vicinity. Naruto City had succeeded as a saltpan area from the period of domain duties to the late Showa period. Naruto Udon is believed to have served as a digestible food for people finishing heavy labor in the saltpan. Naruto Udon is thin and inelastic. Soup broth made from boiled-dried fish and so on is simple. As for toppings, chopped leeks, Chikuwa (fish sausage), Aburaage, etc. are often added.
Tarai Udon is a local dish of the Donari area, northeast of Tokushima Prefecture. Boiled noodles are served in a big Tarai (washtub) with cooking liquid. Several customers sit around the washtub and eat the noodles with a dipping broth. Broth in the dipping broth is made from freshwater fish (Jinzoku or Rhinogobius flumineus).
Now, only the Udon noodle shop 'Taruhei' uses Jinzoku for making broth (as of March, 2009).
Sanuki Udon is a specialty of Kagawa Prefecture, characterized by elasticity and smooth texture. One can enjoy not only a great choice of toppings, but also various cooking styles, such as Kamaage-Udon style (plain hot Udon noodles served with dipping sauce), Kijoyu-Udon style (Udon noodles with pure soy sauce), Kamatama-Udon style (boiled hot Udon noodles with raw egg and soy sauce), in addition to orthodox Kake-Udon and Zaru-Udon styles.
Shippoku Udon is an altered form of Sanuki Udon, the soup broth is made by simmering root vegetables, Japanese taro, chicken, etc. Shippoku Udon is mainly eaten in the winter season in the Tosan region.
Hakata Udon (Fukuoka Udon)
Hakata Udon is a local dish of the Fukuoka area, the northern Kyushu area and vicinity. As a conspicuous feature, Hakata Udon is generally inelastic and soft.
Monks including Shoichi Kokusi Enni introduced tea, Udon noodles, Soba and steamed buns into Japan when they returned from the Sung Dynasty in 1241. A theory suggests that Hakata was the birthplace of these foods in Japan (Refer for details to the section of the trade between Japan and the Sung Dynasty in Hakata). There is a stone monument with the inscription 'The birthplace of Udon noodles and Soba' in 'Joten-ji Temple' established by Enni.
There are various theories about the background of Hakata Udon acquiring the characteristics of 'inelastic and softness' as follows.
The first imported Udon noodles were believed to have been 'soft noodles made merely by kneading flour.'
Then, a theory suggests that younger generations in this area were handed down the features of 'soft noodles.'
Besides, reflecting the characteristic of this commercial area where lots of impatient people desired to finish meals as quick as possible, noodles were generally boiled beforehand to shorten cooking time. Also, customers preferred noodles they could quickly bite off and easily swallow. As a result, noodles became soft and inelastic, as another theory suggests. There is also a theory that soft and inelastic noodles have come to be used exclusively, because cooks noticed that such noodles mixed easier with soup broth than elastic noodles, when Udon noodles were served with warm soup broth.
Soup broth is made from Konbu, dried bonito, Urume (round herring), dried mackerel, dried sardine, Ajiko (dried Japanese horse mackerel), Ago (dried flying fish), etc. and seasoned with light-colored soy sauce. Maruten' (circular-shaped fried fish cake) and 'Goboten' (deep-fried burdock root in a light batter) are general toppings. A number of shops provide yuzu kosho (a spicy, hot Japanese condiment made from yuzu rind, chili and salt) as a seasoning.
Maruten Udon is a local food of Fukuoka Prefecture and its vicinity. Maruten Udon is topped with Satsumaage-like boiled fish-paste products (fried fish cake), which are made by deep-frying circular-shaped minced fish. The title "Maruten Udon" came from the fact that fried fish cakes are called 'tempura' as a whole, in these areas. In the Kyushu region, the title 'Tempura Udon' sometimes refers to this Maruten Udon.
Goboten Udon is a local food of Fukuoka Prefecture and its vicinity. Goboten Udon is topped with tempura of shredded burdock root that is deep-fried in a mass or in pieces. Most shops in the northern Kyushu region serve Goboten Udon. In Japan, Goboten Udon can be pronounced two ways, one is "gobohten udon," and the other is "goboten udon."
Kashiwa Udon is a standard food of northern Kyushu, especially in Fukuoka Prefecture. Kashiwa Udon is topped with minced chicken meat boiled and seasoned with soy sauce (chicken meat is called Kashiwa in the dialect of this region). If customers forget to ask cooks to leave out the minced chicken meet, they will find almost all Udon noodles they ordered are topped with minced chicken meet in standing-up-eating Udon noodles shops ranging from Kyushu Railway Company (JR-Kyushu) Orio Station, which is especially famous for its Ekiben (a box lunch sold on a train or at a station) "Kashiwa Meshi," to Tosu Station via Hakata Station.
(Namely, in these areas, 'Kashiwa Udon' plays the part for Kake Udon, simple and basic Udon noodles.)
Goto Udon is produced in the Goto Islands, Nagasaki Prefecture. Goto Udon is produced by using the hand-stretching technique like Somen and Inaniwa Udon as following process: (1) A piece of long and thick string-shaped dough is cut out spirally from the dough stretched thick and round with a sickle (due to this process, Goto Udon is also called "Kamakiri Udon" [Udon noodles cut by a sickle]), (2) the cut out string-shaped dough is hung by crossing on two sticks placed in parallel and a little apart adding strength slightly, (3) the dough is stretched by widening the space between the sticks gradually, (4) the stretched dough is removed from the sticks, and then similarly hung on two sticks by crossing them, adding strength. Goto Udon smells slightly of camellia oil, because its dough uses camellia oil produced in the Goto Islands instead of Uchiko when being hand-stretched. The typical cooking way of Goto Udon is 'Jigoku-daki,' in which plain hot noodles boiled in plenty of hot water are served with soy sauce or dipping broth made of flying fish. In contrast to Sanuki Udon that was purportedly introduced by Kobo Daishi (a posthumous title of the priest Kukai), Goto Udon is believed to have come down to Japan directly through the original route from the Continent, considering its geographical features.
Agodashi Udon is a local dish of Nagasaki Prefecture. Soup broth is made from flying fish (called 'Tobiuo' in the dialect of this region) caught in this region. The soup broth made from flying fish tastes lighter than that made from dried bonito.
The Nagasaki region historically traded with the Chinese continent in olden times. Therefore, the hand-stretching manufacturing method has been handed down to younger generations, as shown in Goto Tenobe Udon (hand-stretched Udon noodles of the Goto Islands) and Shimabara Tenobe Somen (hand-stretched fine white noodles of Shimabara).
In a document from the Nara period, Udon noodles are described as 'Mugonawa' (wheat rope), which is believed to have been produced by the 'hand-stretching method' adopted in producing Goto Udon and Shimabara Somen in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Gomadashi Udon originated from Saeki City, Oita Prefecture. Gomadashi,' a paste made by grinding a mixture of broiled fish meat such as Lizardfish, sesame, soy sauce and so on, is dissolved in hot water, which is used as soup broth.
Okinawa Soba is a local dish of Okinawa Prefecture. Noodles used to cook Okinawa Soba are a kind of Chinese noodles made from flour and brine, not buckwheat powder. However, they slightly resemble 'Udon noodles' rather than 'Ramen' in their flavor and texture. Originally, the noodles were produced by the method as follows: Flour is kneaded for long hours by applying lye extracted from good quality ash, and then the resulting dough is cut and boiled before sprinkling rapeseed oil.
Udon noodles outside Japan
In Hong Kong, Udon noodle is written as '烏冬麵' and pronounced 'u-don-min' by the Cantonese reading. This orthography was first used in Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong, which is sometimes found in the Chinese continent as well these days. Besides, the orthography '烏龍麵' is sometimes applied, which is pronounced 'u-ron-min' with a corrupted form.
In Taiwan, Udon noodles are cherished by the name of 'u-ron-min' or 'u-ron-tan-min.'
Basically, Udon noodles in Hong Kong and Taiwan are virtually the same as those in Japan, although the soup broth is slightly modified to local tastes.
In the Republic of Korea, as a result of Japan's rule in the first half of the twentieth century, Japanese style Udon noodles remain a popular food even now, which is called "udong." Soup broth in Japanese style Udon and in the Republic of Korea style Udon appear similar, but in fact, the taste is quite different, because the latter soup broth is usually peppered. On the other hand, Udon noodles topped with Kimchi, with a soup broth similar to Japan's, are available around Pusan. Moreover, in South Korea, Udon is sometimes used to treat guests in the midst of or after ceremonial events, such as weddings, birthdays, sixtieth birthday.
In Hoian in Vietnam, there is a dish cooked by using thick noodles made from wheat called 'Cao lầu.'
A theory suggests that the noodles originated in Ise Udon, which was introduced there by Ise merchants who engaged in the trade by shogunate-licensed trading ships called Shuinsen in the first half of the seventeenth century.
In Hawaii state, where a lot of Japanese migrated during the Meiji period to the beginning of the Showa period, there is a noodles dish called Saimin. At present, Chinese noodles are used to cook Saimin, but the soup broth is undoubtedly Japanese style. This suggests that the Saimin noodle dish was designed and modified in the course of exchange among immigrants from each country centering on Japanese.
There is a noodle dish called "UDON" in Palau as well that was under the mandatory rule of Japan during the prewar period. Like Udon noodles in Japan, the soup broth is seasoned with soy sauce. However, the dish is characterized by an insufficient amount of soup broth, which might be influenced by Okinawa Soba (because, Palau received a lot of immigrants from Okinawa in the past), as well as by using spaghetti that is easily available in the country.
In European countries and the United States, because of the Japanese food boom and for other reasons, even supermarkets and other shops have come to sell retort Udon noodles and frozen Udon noodles, in addition to Japanese food restaurants serving Udon noodles. As a result, Udon noodles are being recognized as a general home-cooked meal.