The Difference: Yakisoba vs Soba vs Ramen vs Udon vs Somen

Yakisoba, Soba, Ramen, Udon, and Somen are the 5 noodle dishes that are most commonly eaten by Japanese people, as well as representing Japan. 

If you are acquainted with Japanese food, you should know about these noodles quite well.

However, a lot of overseas people seem to be confused about how the 5 types of Japanese noodles, Yakisoba, Soba, Ramen, Udon, and Somen differ. 

Therefore, for those who have not tried all of these Japanese dishes yet, today let me talk about how they are different from one another.

5 Popular Types of Japanese Noodles

Yakisoba (焼きそば)

Yakisoba Noodles

First off, Yakisoba is the only noodle dish that has no broth among these 5 Japanese dishes where wheat noodles are stir-fried with meat and vegetables and seasoned mainly with Japanese-style Worcester sauce.

Noodles

Unlike Ramen, the majority of the wheat noodles for Yakisoba sold at grocery stores are what was steamed and coated with oil.

Flavors

In general, Yakisoba is primarily flavored with a Japanese Worcestershire sauce, together with soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, and pepper.

The regular Worcester-sauce-based Yakisoba is generally called “Sauce Yakisoba”, but salt-based and soy-sauce-based varieties can also be seen in Japan.

Ingredients 

Typical ingredients used in Yakisoba are pork belly, cabbage, carrot, onion, and bean sprouts. 

Condiments and Garnishes

Many Japanese people like to dress Yakisoba with mayonnaise or spicy mayo, in addition to sprinkling Aonori (green seaweed powder) and Katsuobushi (dried bonito shavings) on the noodles.

As a garnish, Beni Shoga (red pickled ginger) is commonly prepared for Yakisoba.

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Soba (蕎麦)

Soba Noodle Soup

Zaru Soba

The traditional Japanese noodle dish, Soba actually comes in 2 types, and one consists of noodles in hot soup, like Ramen.

Meanwhile, the other is a dish where noodles and broth are served cold separately, so you eat the noodles dipping in the sauce each time.

Noodles 

Unlike Yakisoba, Ramen, Udon, and Somen noodles, which are all made from wheat flour, the first ingredient in Soba is buckwheat where wheat flour is typically used as a thickener.

Soup Broth

Mentsuyu or the like is usually prepared for Soba broth. Mentsuyu is a traditional Japanese liquid soup base made by combining Dashi with Kaeshi.

Dashi is a soup stock made with ingredients such as Kombu (seaweed), Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), and Shiitake (mushrooms).

Meanwhile, Kaeshi is a liquid seasoning made from dark soy sauce, sugar, and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine).

Ingredients 

Typical ingredients used in Soba are Tempura, Aburaage (deep-fried bean curd), Sansai (edible wild plants), duck meat, fresh raw egg, Wakame (seaweed), Tororo (grated yam), green onions, and Nameko (mushrooms).

Condiments and Garnishes 

We Japanese like to eat Soba with wasabi (grated Japanese horseradish), sprinkling the 7 spice blend Shichimi Togarashi on the noodle soup. As a garnish, finely chopped green onions are typically prepared for Soba.

Meaning of Soba

When Soba is written as “蕎麦” using Chinese characters or Kanji, its meaning is definitely buckwheat or buckwheat noodle.

But when Soba is represented by the Hiragana or Katakana letters “そば” or “ソバ”, they can refer to several Japanese noodles including Yakisoba.

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Ramen (ラーメン)

Shoyu Ramen

Ramen is the quintessential Japanese noodle dish that is most popular in many countries, which is actually available in various different types and countless flavors.

Even among those, Shoyu Ramen (soy-sauce-based), Shio Ramen (salt-based), Miso Ramen (miso-based), and Tonkotsu Ramen (pork-bone-based) are major classics.

Noodles 

The noodles for Ramen are mostly made out of wheat flour that has been mixed with Kansui, a form of alkaline water, and salt.

Flavors

Almost any seasoning and flavoring can be used in Ramen. As a matter of fact, there are many weird flavors of Ramen in Japan ranging from pineapple to coffee.

Ingredients

Also, almost any food material can be prepared for Ramen, but Char-siu (roast pork slices), Menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), thinly sliced scallions, and Naruto (fish cake) are the basics especially for Shoyu Ramen.

Condiments and Garnishes 

Many Japanese like to eat Shoyu Ramen with pepper or Kosho, and the soy sauce ramen is typically garnished with dry sheets of nori (seaweed).

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Udon (うどん)

Su Udon

Zaru Udon

As you can see from the pictures above, Udon is basically eaten in the same manner as Soba. 

Noodles 

The noodles for Udon are made from wheat flour mixed with salt and water. In the case of machine-made dried noodles, the definition of Udon is the wheat noodle that has a long diameter of 1.7 mm to 3.8 mm.

Soup Broth

As with Soba, Mentsuyu is usually prepared as broth for Udon noodles. Sometimes curry sauce is added to it and the variety is called Curry Udon.

Ingredients 

Ingredients typically used in Udon are basically the same as Soba, that is, Tempura, Tenkasu (tempura bits), Aburaage, Mochi (rice cake), Kamaboko (fish cake), fresh raw egg, Wakame, Tororo, meat (duck, beef, pork), and green onions.

Condiments and Garnishes 

As with Soba, Shichimi Togarashi is an essential condiment for Udon, and chilled varieties usually come with finely chopped green onions.

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Somen (素麺)

Somen

Unlike Yakisoba, Soba, Ramen, and Udon, all of which are eaten throughout the year, Somen is a summer noodle dish.

In Somen, noodles are usually served chilled in a glass bowl with iced water, and broth is served separately from the noodles, typically in a glass cup.

Noodles

The noodles for Somen are made from the same ingredients as Udon, that is, wheat flour, salt, and water. 

In the case of machine-made dried noodles, the difference between Somen and Udon basically only comes from the difference in diameter, and the Somen noodle has a long diameter of less than 1.3 mm.

Soup Broth

As with Soba and Udon, Somen broth is usually prepared by watering down the Mentsuyu soup base or the like.

Condiments and Garnishes 

Like Soba and Udon, many people like to sprinkle the Shichimi Togarashi spice mix on the Somen noodle soup, which is typically garnished with finely chopped green onions and Myoga gingers. 

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(Reference Pages: Wikipedia 焼きそば, 蕎麦, ラーメン, うどん, 素麺 )

Tomo

Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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