The 5 Best Instant Udon Noodle Soups for Beginners
Udon is a traditional Japanese noodle made of wheat flour, which has a far longer history than Ramen. In general, the Japanese Udon dish is characterized by its light yet rich soy-sauce-based broth made with kombu and bonito dashi soup stock and its noodles are chewier and thicker than the ones for Ramen.
However, since there are tons of variations in Ramen compared to Udon, the number of instant ramens that grocery stores in Japan carry is usually much larger than that of instant Udon. In fact, I consume more instant cup Ramen than instant Udon in one year.
The 5 Best Instant Udon Bowls for Beginners
Despite that, there are several instant Udon noodles that have been widely enjoyed by us Japanese over the ages, so today for instant Udon beginners, here I will introduce such loved instant Udon bowls that I think are the best for beginners.
Maruchan Akai Kitsune
First off, “Maruchan Akai Kitsune (マルちゃん 赤いきつね)” is the instant Udon bowl with the largest market share in Japan. It was introduced by “Toyo Suisan (東洋水産)” in 1978. “Kitsune (きつね)” is a quintessential Udon dish whose main topping is deep-fried tofu called “Aburaage (油揚げ)”, so this Maruchan’s instant Udon bowl is characterized by the big and juicy Aburaage that soaks up the flavor of the broth very well. The soup is light soy sauce-based but packed with plenty of umami.
Nissin Donbei Kitsune Udon
“Nissin Donbei Kitsune Udon (日清 どん兵衛 きつねうどん)” is the 2nd best-selling instant Udon bowl in Japan, after Maruchan Akai Kitsune. This product was put on the market in 1976 by Nissin. As its name indicates, Nissin Donbei Kitsune Udon is also a Kitsune Udon. Hence, it consists primarily of thick chewy wheat noodles, soy sauce-based dashi-rich broth, and Aburaage, though the broth and the deep-fried tofu in this Kitsune Udon are somewhat sweet compared to those of Maruchan Akai Kitsune.
Nissin Donbei Niku Udon
“Nissin Donbei Niku Udon (日清 どん兵衛 肉うどん)” is one of the best-selling instant Udon bowls in Japan as well as being the most popular instant “Niku Udon (肉うどん)”. “Niku (肉)” means meat in Japanese, so the main garnish of this instant Udon is bits of seasoned beef, together with Wakame seaweed and chopped green onions. As with Donbei Kitsune Udon, the broth of this instant Udon is somewhat sweet with lots of umami from Katsuobushi bonito flakes and beef.
Nissin Donbei Curry Udon (West Japan Version)
Nissin Donbei Curry Udon is one of the most popular Curry Udon instant noodles in Japan. Actually, several popular Japanese instant Udon bowls, including Maruchan Akai Kitsune, Nissin Donbei Kitsune Udon, and this item, have 2 versions, that is, the Eastern Japan version and the Western Japan version. Generally, the former broth features a rich flavor of soy sauce, while the latter is light in flavor and color, but emphasizes the soup stock. Therefore, the main characteristic of this West Japan Version of Curry Udon is its dashi-rich curry soup.
Maruchan Shiroi Chikara Mochi Udon
“Chikara Udon (力うどん)” is a seasonal Udon dish eaten during the cold winter months in Japan, topped with sticky “Mochi (餅)” white plain rice cake. Maruchan Shiroi Chikara Udon is the best and most beloved instant Chikara Udon in Japan. Just with this Udon dish, you can enjoy the 2 comfort foods that represent Japan, Udon, and Mochi, at the same time. The traditional Japanese 7 spice blend that comes with this bowl “Shichimi Togarashi (七味唐辛子)” adds a little spicy touch to the hearty Mochi and Udon, making the overall Udon noodle soup more appetizing.