Udon noodles are the thick, white noodles often used in Japanese cuisine. They are a very simple food that is served in different ways throughout the country, depending on the region. Udon noodles are made from a few, simple ingredients, however the process in which they are made is more complicated.
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Udon noodles are made from wheat flour, salt and water. They are simple, but often put in various types of broths or with different ingredients to make more complex dishes
Udon noodles are made through a fairly complex process. First the ingredients are mixed to form a paste-like mixture, then they are kneaded in a process where the cook steps on the dough, kneading it through a plastic bag. The dough then sits and rises several times. The cook then rolls out the dough to form a perfect circle or a perfect square, using a special technique and Japanese cooking tools. The dough is then cut into the thick noodles and boiled.
Udon noodles are traditionally a Japanese dish, but were actually introduced to Japan when a Buddhist priest returned from a trip to China in the ninth century and tried to emulate a similar noodle found in China. Sanuki and Osaka, cities in western Japan are considered the birthplaces of the udon noodle, but each area of the country serves the dish in different ways.
Udon noodles can be served in many different ways, hot or cold. The most traditional way is hot in a soy-sauce based broth, often garnished with scallions and mushrooms, called bukkake udon. Kitsune udon is made in a similar way but with fried tofu on top of the soup. Tempura udon, similarly has prawn tempura on top of the soup, while tanuki udon has fried tempura batter topping the soup. Miso nikomi udon is a type of miso soup with udon noodles served in boiling miso broth. These recipes vary by region and by restaurant, with many places inventing their own udon menus, featuring different toppings and recipes. Cold udon noodles are often dipped in sauce or topped with sesame seeds, green onions or wasabi.
Where to Buy
You can buy udon noodles in the United States at specialty Asian grocers and some larger grocery stores. They can be bought dried, boiled or fresh and should come with cooking instructions. They can also be ordered online from grocery importers.