Even though we associate Japanese cuisine mostly with various types of sushi, Asian noodles are an equally important element of Japanese menu. Udon, either served in soups or accompanied by aromatic sauces and vegetables, is a good example.

Chinese roots

Udon is thick wheat flour noodle, with up to 6 mm in diameter. Just as many other Japanese dishes, udon has its roots in Chinese cuisine. There are a number of alternative stories about how it was introduced to Japanese tables. One of them says that udon was brought by a Chinese Buddhist monk Kūkai at the beginning of the 9th century.

How to prepare udon

Udon has a simple, uncomplicated composition and its preparation requires only a little strength to knead the quite hard dough. Flour, salt and warm water (about 50°C) – this is the whole secret of the Japanese noodles. Mix the flour with salt dissolved in water and knead it thoroughly. Flatten the dough, only to knead it into a ball again. Having repeated this several times, wrap the dough in a cotton cloth and put away for 3–4 hours. Then roll it out and cut into stripes a few millimetres wide. Cook them in boiling water for about 8 minutes.

Udon dishes

The delicate smooth noodles are usually enjoyed in aromatic soups, served either cold or hot, depending on the season. Some of the most popular dishes with the thick noodle include tempura udon, which is based on delicate broth with fresh tempura, that is battered and deep-fried fish, seafood, vegetables or mushrooms. Another common though less traditional dish is kare udon – a Japanese version of curry, often to be encountered in fast food bars in the streets of large cities. Some say that udon is for the Japanese what a ham sandwich is for Europeans.

Japanese Nabeyaki udon – “hot pot”

Another example of a typical noodle dish is Nabeyaki udon, i.e. a Japanese one-pot meal, prepared in a clay or cast iron pot. The ingredients of this warming soup depend on the imagination and resources of the cook, but the culinary composition is always based on the satiating udon noodles and aromatic broth. The hot pots may include mushrooms, vegetables and meat chunks. Nabeyaki udon is usually crowned with an egg broken directly into the boiling soup.

Japanese noodles

Contrary to Western beliefs, the flour-based additions are an important element of daily Japanese diet. Next to the buckwheat soba and the thin somen, udon is one of the basic Japanese noodle types, often present in traditional soups and quickly fried dishes. To avoid social blunders, remember that noodles are eaten with chopsticks, while spoon is only used for the liquid part of the dish.

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