Yakisoba vs. Soba vs. Ramen vs. Udon vs. Somen
Yakisoba, Soba, Ramen, Udon, and Somen are the noodle dishes most familiar to us, and if you are acquainted with Japanese food, you should know about these noodles pretty well.
5 Popular Types of Japanese Noodles
However, many overseas people seem confused about how the five types of Japanese noodles differ. So here, let me give you an overview of each.
First, Yakisoba is the only broth-less noodle dish among the five, where wheat noodles are stir-fried with other ingredients in a frying pan and seasoned with Japanese Worcester sauce.
Unlike Ramen, the wheat noodles for Yakisoba are typically steamed and coated with oil.
The main flavoring for Yakisoba is usually Japanese Worcestershire sauce, which accompanies seasonings such as soy sauce, salt & pepper, and oyster sauce.
In addition to the regular Worcester sauce-flavored Yakisoba called Sauce Yakisoba (ソース焼そば), Shio (塩: salt)-based varieties are widely available here in Japan.
Typical ingredients for Yakisoba are pork belly, cabbage, carrot, onion, and bean sprouts.
Many people like to dress Yakisoba with mayonnaise or spicy mayo and sprinkle Aonori (green seaweed powder) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings) on the noodles.
We commonly prepare Beni Shoga (red pickled ginger) as a garnish for Yakisoba.
The traditional Japanese noodle dish, Soba (蕎麦), comes in two styles, and one consists of noodles in hot soup, like Ramen.
Meanwhile, in the other, noodles and broth are served cold separately, so you eat the noodles dipping in the sauce each time.
Unlike Yakisoba, Ramen, Udon, and Somen, which all use wheat noodles, the first ingredient in Soba is buckwheat, where wheat flour typically serves as a thickener or Tsunagi (つなぎ).
We usually prepare Mentsuyu for the broth. Mentsuyu (めんつゆ) is a traditional Japanese soup base made by combining Dashi with Kaeshi.
Dashi (出汁) is stock packed with umami from Kombu seaweed, Katsuobushi bonito flakes, or dried Shiitake mushrooms.
Kaeshi (かえし) is a liquid seasoning made from dark soy sauce, sugar, and Mirin sweet cooking rice wine.
Typical garnishes for Soba are Tempura, Aburaage (deep-fried tofu), Sansai (edible wild plants), duck meat, fresh raw egg, Wakame (seaweed), Tororo (grated yam), chopped green onions, and Nameko mushrooms.
We Japanese like to eat Soba with Wasabi (grated Japanese horseradish) and sprinkle the seven-spice blend Shichimi Togarashi on the soup.
Meaning of Soba
When written as 蕎麦 using Chinese characters or Kanji, Soba only refers to buckwheat or buckwheat noodles.
But when represented with Hiragana letters as そば, Soba can mean various noodle dishes, including Yakisoba.
Ramen is the representative Japanese noodle dish most popular in many countries and is available in several variants and countless flavors.
But among others, Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce-based), Shio Ramen (salt-based), Miso Ramen (miso-based), and Tonkotsu Ramen (pork bone-based) are classics.
Unlike Udon, the wheat noodles for Ramen contain an alkaline solution called Kansui (かん水), which gives the noodles a distinctive texture and chew.
Almost any seasoning/flavoring is usable in Ramen. And that leads to the creation of weird or novel flavors.
Also, almost any food is usable in Ramen. But Shoyu Ramen typically comes with Char-siu (roast pork), Menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), thinly sliced scallions, and Naruto (fish cake).
Many people like to eat Shoyu Ramen with pepper or Kosho and garnish it with dry sheets of Nori (seaweed).
As seen from the photos above, we consume Udon the same way as Soba.
Unlike Ramen, the noodles consist of wheat flour kneaded with salt and water. Unlike Somen, the dried Udon noodle has a long diameter between 1.7 mm – 3.8 mm.
As with Soba, we usually prepare Mentsuyu for the broth and sometimes add curry sauce to it or onto the soup.
Typical garnishes/toppings for Udon are almost the same as Soba; Tempura, Tenkasu (Tempura bits), Aburaage, Mochi (rice cake), Kamaboko (fish cake), fresh raw egg, Wakame, Tororo, meat (duck, beef, or pork), and chopped green onions.
As with Soba, Shichimi Togarashi is the essential condiment for Udon, and chilled, separately-served varieties usually come with finely chopped green onions.
Unlike Yakisoba, Soba, Ramen, and Udon, all eaten throughout the year, Somen is usually only limited to the summer season.
In the dish, noodles generally come separately from broth; The former is typically served in a glass bowl with iced water, while the latter uses a glass cup.
The noodles use the same ingredients as Udon; wheat flour, salt, and water.
But unlike Udon, it’s defined that the machine-made dried Somen noodle has a long diameter of less than 1.3 mm, as mentioned in this article.
As with Soba and Udon, we usually prepare the Mentsuyu soup base for the Somen broth.
Like Soba and Udon, many people like to eat Somen with the Shichimi Togarashi spice mix and garnish the dish with finely chopped green onions or Myoga gingers.