Noodles are a huge part of the Japanese diet. They are as well-known as sushi. Japan has a variety of noodles from thick to cream, served hot or cold. So, you can imagine our excitement at the opportunity to taste authentic noodles in Japan.
Here are 4 types of Japanese noodles to try. Whenever you’re in Japan, peek at this list and cross off each one you tried.
“Look ma, I’m slurping my soup!” We were excited to try noodles in Japan for the chance to proudly slurp soup in public. We were offered a restaurant invitation to En Shibuya, and the imagery on the menu made us shout: “I want this!” Served in a lunchbox, we were not expecting the accompanying ice. Being fans of fried tempura we knew what the side dish would be.
Not accustomed to eating cold noodles, we were taken aback but intrigued. It was thick, chewy and smooth. We soon became used to the cold temperature and started chowing down. Dipping soup and vegetables were included in the tray. The fried tempura helped warm our bellies.
Placed on restaurant menus we figured this meal would be for lunch but also dinner. There are a lot of variations of this dish and one can easily strike you as a must try. Options such as cold, stir-fried, in a hot tsuyu broth or with a side of tempura.
We tried yakisoba the best way possible: at a festival! The Nezu-jinja Shrine Festival to be exact. Yakisoba has a taste best fit for street food, it was fried and flavorful. Yakisoba literally translates to “fried noodle.” Since it’s not served in soup, yakisoba is an ideal choice for festivals. It was topped with some pink stuff, some white stuff and some green stuff. To be more eloquent, after research we found their respective names to be pickled ginger, bean sprouts and powdered seaweed. Additional vegetables can be topped on the dish. The other element to this fried delicacy is the sweet and tangy yakisoba sauce.
This wasn’t served on a classy plate or at a dimly-lit trendy restaurant, but under the shelter of the festival food area, among smiling patrons dipping their chopsticks in the meal they ordered. One bite, we were soon joining them in light conversation surrounded by delicious smelling food.
Ramen may be of Chinese origin, however, the Japanese do it justice. It has a distinct yellow color created by kansui, the salt-water broth. With curly noodles that tickle when you slurp, each region in Japan makes their own variation of the dish. We had the pleasure of trying Tokyo’s version with light chicken broth.
We stood outside a ramen shop in Shibuya and an eager greeter gestured us in handing out English menus. After making our pick we headed to a machine called jidouhanbaiki, an “automatic selling machine,” to place our order. Slipping in the coins for payment, we made our selection and was handed a ticket. The ticket then went to the greeter who handed it to the chefs. Our seating was right in front of the cooking area and we quietly watched as they prepared the food. Once our bowls were laid in front of us, we casually glanced around the room to observe how others ate the dish and emulated what we could.
The dish tasted so good we were thankful we decided to make a night trip just for ramen. Served in a large bowl, the meal would definitely fill us up.
There are four main types of ramen. The salt base we mentioned before is called shio. Additional ones include soy sauce base shoyu, a miso base, and the pork base called tonkotsu.
Ramen, being a common dish, is found almost anywhere. Though there are famous ramen shops people frequent due to reputation. Ramen seems like a dish that can be eaten for any occasion or reason. It’s like Japanese street food.
Soba noodles are thin, brownish noodles like that of spaghetti with a rich earthy taste and nutty flavor. They are often served chilled with a flavored dipping sauce in the summer, or hot mixed with broth in the winter. However, they can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
These kind of Japanese noodles are worth mentioning due to its long history in Japan and many health benefits. They are made of buckwheat flour, although wheat flour is sometimes added. Also if you are allergic or sensitive to gluten, be sure to check if you are getting juwari soba (100% buckwheat). Unfortunately, we have yet to check off soba on our noodle checklist. We almost got the chance, but life happened. When we do, feel free to check here for the update about our experience.
A local taste of Japanese Noodles
Can’t quite make the journey to Japan to try good noodles? Don’t feel sad, there might be some lovely options in your local area. Most ran by Japanese-born and trained chefs. Though there is a difference in “authentic” Japanese experience. If you know of any good Japanese noodle restaurants add them in the comments so we can expand the list.
DOMU at East End Market, Orlando, FL, U.S.
Ippundo, Multiple locations in U.S. and Europe.
Ramen Tatsu-ya, Austin, TX, U.S.