Japanese noodle or Japanese pasta refers to the type of noodle which is synonymous with Japanese cuisine. Japan has a long tradition of eating noodles, which are second only to rice dishes. Japanese noodles may be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and most recipes are quick and easy to prepare. Usage of soy sauce, vinegar, seafood and vegetables like peppers and green onions is quite common in such dishes. Japanese prefer their noodles soft, and cook it a little over al dente.
Types of Japanese Noodles
- Ramen: This is one of the popular varieties of Japanese noodles. The ramen noodles have today become one of the top culinary exports from Japan. These noodles are believed to be of Chinese origin, and like Chinese noodles are prepared using salt, mineral water, wheat flour, and eggs. Today the ramen noodles have become an integral part of many Japanese dishes and thousands of restaurants specializing in ramen noodles have sprung across Japan. Also, many variations of instant ramen noodles have been developed in many parts of world. The instant ramen noodles have become very popular in America and Mexico. Ramen noodles have yellowish color and firm texture and they largely vary in length, width and shape. A Ramen noodle is also known as chuka soba or Chinese soba and is used in preparation of dishes like shio ramen, Sapporo ramen, miso ramen, and shoyu ramen.
- Soba: This is also one of the popular variant of noodle enjoyed in Japan. It is prepared using buckwheat and wheat flour. These noodles can be eaten cold or hot as a soup and dipping sauce. Japanese use nishin (simmered herring), sansei (mountain vegetables) and raw egg to make soba noodles. Kake soba, tempura soba, kitsune soba are some of the dishes prepared using this noodle.
- Shirataki: Japanese call them “white waterfall”, referring to their appearance. These noodles are made from the roots of Amorphophallus konjac. They are very rubbery and chewy. Shirataki noodles are valued for their nutrients and are regularly used by dieters in Europe. The Japanese have been using this noodle for a while to add texture to the winter stews: oden and sukiyaki.
- Udon: They are thickest amongst various noodles in Japan. They are made up of wheat and are generally white in color. Udon noodles are normally served cold with dipping sauces during the summers and in hot soups or dishes during winters. Nabeyaki udon, kitsune udon, bukkake udon, curry udon are some of the popular udon based noodle dishes.
- Somen: These noodles are distinguished by their thin and milky white frame. These wheat based noodles are good to be savored during summers. The somen noodles are associated with aristocracy of Japan. These noodles are similar to udon and himayogi noodles, but much thinner.
Ingredients and Preparation
Japanese noodle dishes are prepared with ingredients such as dashi (a cooking liquid or soup stock used in Japanese cuisine), shoyu (which is soy sauce, dark or light or both varieties of which are used), mirin (a Japanese rice wine condiment consisting of 14% alcohol and 40-50% sugar). Green onions, vinegar, chicken breasts, chicken stock and sugar are also commonly used in Japanese noodle or pasta recipes. Raw eggs, mountain vegetables and mushrooms are used in many variants. The preparation involves cooking the noodles a little more than al dente, and tossing with a sauce made with ingredients like broth, soy sauce, vinegar, seasonings and flavorings. Noodle soup dishes are also popular, consisting of noodles served in a soup made with soup stock and flavorings.
Japanese noodles may be served hot or chilled, for breakfast, a one-dish lunch or as a part of dinner with other dishes. It is often garnished with chopped green onions before serving in warmed noodle or pasta bowls. Quick and easy Japanese noodle preparations often serve as snacks for impromptu get-togethers. Japanese eat their noodle shaped pasta with chop sticks.
Noodles are popular street food in Japan and they are sold from noodle joints located at the corner of the street, or ramen carts, or street stalls. In olden days noodles were also sold at busy train stations.
Popular Japanese Noodles Recipes
- Shoyu Ramen: This noodle dish is prepared with lots of soy sauce, which is known as shoyu in chaste Japanese. Chukamen noodles, garlic, fresh ginger, sesame oil, chicken soup stock, kombu dashi soup stock, sake, salt, sugar, and soy sauce are used to make this dish. Nori (dried seaweeds), negi, and pepper are used for topping the dish.
- Curry Udon: This consists of Udon noodles and a thick curry flavored soup. Pork, onion, carrot, shitake mushrooms, curry powder, dashi soup, soy sauce, mirin, katakuriko starch, negi, and preboiled udon noodles are required to make this dish. The curry soup is normally served over the preboiled noodles.
- Yakisoba : This is a noodle dish made by stir frying ramen style noodles with pork and vegetables like onions, carrots and cabbage. It is flavored with yakisoba sauce and seasoned with salt and pepper. It is garnished with seaweed powder, shredded and pickled ginger, fish flakes and mayonnaise before serving.