Udon and Soba noodles are two highly nutritious Japanese noodles, and just as Japan is known for its sushi, it is difficult not to see a noodle restaurant almost at every turn in the country.
In Japan, noodles are mostly an important ingredient in their everyday meals, be it an occasion, a quick lunch, or dinner. The country is so in love with noodles that you can find several varieties of them when you visit. Although for this article, we shall focus on just two of Japan’s great noodles dishes: Udon vs Soba noodles.
WHAT IS UDON
It is believed that Udon didn’t become a popular Japanese dish until the 1600s. The noodle has its unique taste from the wheat flour, water, and salt it is made from, although this varies according to the different regions in Japan.
Udon has a chewy thick texture, typically 2-4 millimeters. While preparing it, kneading the dough could be very difficult, some cooks have to stomp on it to make it relax. They may be made in various shapes like square, wide, thin or rounded and served often as a noodle soup in a hot broth, although can also be served as cold noodles with a dipping sauce. There are several recipes for preparing Udon, but here are some of the more popular Udon dishes:
- Kitsune Udon: This is a very famous Udon noodle soup and it features seasoned fried tofu (inari age) and Udon noodles floating in a dashi broth.
- Miso Nikomi Udon: This hearty Udon dish is made with vegetables, noodles, and softly boiled egg floating in a miso paste broth.
- Kake Udon: Kake Udon is a very simple Udon noodle soup made with dashi, seasoned with soy sauce and mirin.
- Curry Udon: This Udon dish is famous for its thick noodles coated in Japanese curry roux.
- Yaki Udon: It is prepared by stir-frying already cooked Udon noodles in soy sauce, sesame oil, and vegetables such as scallions and napa cabbage or bok choy.
- Udon Suki: This is a type of hot pot noodle dish containing Udon noodles, bean curd, bamboo shoots, green onions, eel, shrimp, shitake mushrooms, mocha, daikon radish, spinach, and chicken.
Udon noodles are sold dried, fresh, or frozen. Dried Udon noodles can be quite dense and vary in thickness, while the fresh and frozen Udon noodles are often the most preferred choice, as they have the chewiest, springy, and bouncy texture, and are quite thick. Another great characteristic of Udon noodles is their ability to blend with different flavors and textures, which makes it easy for them to meet up with your taste demand. They are also known to be easy on the stomach.
WHAT IS SOBA
Soba noodles are specially made from buckwheat flour and water. They have some great characteristic features that help you identify them in the market, and also enjoy them. Soba noodles are:
- Long, thin, and dense
- Has a unique appearance from other noodles (brown color), which is influenced by the buckwheat used in making them.
- Nutty flavored, with an earthy taste that makes them a perfect mix with your salads.
Although Soba noodles are made with 100% buckwheat, which is gluten-free, working with gluten-free buckwheat can be difficult, so to ease their work, many packaged brands add wheat flour to their recipe to ensure stability, however, that makes it inconvenient for gluten-sensitive people.
Soba can be served either cold or hot, and like Udon, there are different Soba noodle dishes, here are some of the popular ones:
1. Kake Soba: Like the Kake Udon, Kake Soba is also a simple soba noodle dish that is usually served in a hot soup broth made with bonito, flakes, dried sardines, and kelp, however, there are many other different versions out there too.
2. Tempura Soba: This dish is made with a classic broth, but with tempura-battered bites toppings. You can also take it along with prawns.
3. YakiSoba: The sizzling Soba noodle dish is celebrated as being a moreish street food, and an instant crowd-pleaser. The noodles are stir-fried with any choice of vegetables, meat, or seafood, and served with a signature tangy style Worcestershire sauce.
4. Kitsune Soba: With Kitsune Soba, the broth is made with kelp, dried kombu, or mushroom, which gives it a unique heartwarming flavor, and finally the whole dish is topped with light and sweet fried tofu.
5. Zaru Soba: This is the perfect Soba noodle dish for the summer or if you want a quick fix lunch. The nutty noodles are first cooked, then chilled, and served with a dipping sauce blend of dashi stock, soy sauce, and mirin.
6. Oroshi Soba: Here is another Soba noodle dish perfect for an easy breezy day. it is prepared using some great Japanese-inspired ingredients such as bonito flakes, daikon radish, nori, ginger, green onion, and shitake mushroom.
Soba noodles have a lot of health benefits such as low-carb, gluten-free, and low-fat features. These make them the perfect option for you if you are on a strict diet or if you are gluten-sensitive.
UDON VS SOBA NOODLES
Both Udon and Soba noodles are iconic Japanese noodles with really great features as we have seen. There are, however, some differences between them, aside from their appearance. Let’s consider some of these differences.
UDON VS SOBA NOODLES: DIFFERENCES
Considering the differences between Udon and Soba, let’s look at their nutritional profile, health benefits, appearance, and taste.
UDON VS SOBA NOODLES: NUTRITIONAL PROFILE
Here is the nutritional profile of 100g of both Udon and Soba noodles.
|NUTRITIONAL CONTENT PER 100G||UDON NOODLES||SOBA NOODLES|
UDON VS SOBA NOODLES: HEALTH BENEFITS
From the chart above, you can tell that Udon noodles are low-carb, and low-calorie, as compared to Soba, making them a more suitable choice of noodles if you are looking at losing weight. Also, the high-quality wheat used in making it provides a significant dose of complex carbohydrates which are higher in fiber, and much easy to digest. Complex carbohydrates are said to be effective in making weight loss easier and also in preventing heart problems and type 2 diabetes. The fiber content of these complex carbohydrates also helps in preventing constipation, and other gastrointestinal problems that could potentially lead to colon cancer.
Aside from the nutritional content you can see above Udon noodles also contain other nutrients like iron, potassium, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus, zinc, copper, folate, and magnesium. All these add up to boost your body’s immunity, fight inflammation, and improve circulation. On the other hand, buckwheat flour which is used in making Soba is also known for having so many health benefits, and also contains nutrients such as vitamin B, fiber, and iron. The noodle also has all nine essential amino acids, including lysine which is normally not found in wheat, and it is made up of a special type of polysaccharide that is easy to digest.
Unlike Udon, Soba is gluten-free, however, be sure to read the labels of any Soba noodle because some brands add other flours which are likely to contain gluten. It also contains antioxidants such as flavonoids which may support heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Also, buckwheat is considered to be prebiotic food, as determined by a 2003 study on rats. Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that feed “good” bacteria (probiotics) in the body, especially bacteria in the gut, as they assist in protecting the body against harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. The health benefits enjoyed by eating Soba noodles makes the Japanese regard it as being restorative and energy-boosting.
UDON VS SOBA NOODLES: TASTE
Soba noodles have their unique characteristic nutty taste, which is why it is often best served in simple light dishes that are not so rich in flavors. Whereas Udon is a milder versatile noodle made to blend with whatever flavor of your choice.
UDON VS SOBA NOODLES: APPEARANCE
Udon has a glossy white appearance, chewy and springy comes in different varieties but they are often thicker, and wider than Soba. While Soba has its unique brown color due to the buckwheat used in making it firm and dense. They are also thin, long, and have an appearance similar to that of spaghetti.
WHERE TO BUY THEM
Udon and Soba noodles are famous Japanese noodles so you can easily find them in most Japanese supermarkets, however, the fame of these two noodles is widely spread so you may find them at some major American grocery stores.
Both noodles may be sold either dried, fresh, or frozen. Soba noodles are often sold dried and are usually packaged in a bundle of three noodle cakes. When it comes to Udon, you should consider buying the fresh version as they often maintain their chewy texture, compared to the dried or frozen version.
Udon and Soba noodles are popular Japanese cuisine that is packed with lots of nutrients that can benefit your health-wise, although they differ in texture, appearance, and taste. There are several different dishes either of these noodles can be used in making, so if you ever pay a visit to Japan, consider trying out these noodles, and if you are glute-sensitive, look out for a gluten-free Soba noodle.