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 noodles, you should know about these noodle dishes quite well.

However, a lot of overseas people seem to be confused about how the 5 types of Japanese noodle dishes, Yakisoba, Soba, Ramen, Udon, and Somen differ. Therefore, for those who have not tried all of these Japanese noodles 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 the wheat noodles are stir-fried with meat and vegetables, and seasoned mainly with Japanese-style Worcester sauce.

Noodles

Unlike Ramen noodles, the majority of the wheat noodles for Yakisoba sold at grocery stores in Japan 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 (ソース焼きそば)”, but there are also salt-based and soy-sauce-based versions.

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 dry seaweed powder “Aonori (青のり)” and dried bonito shavings “Katsuobushi (鰹節)” over the noodles. As a garnish, the red pickled ginger “Beni Shoga (紅ショウガ)” 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. One consists of noodles in hot soup, like Ramen. The other where the noodles and the broth are served cold separately, so you eat the noodles dipping in the sauce each time.

Noodles 

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

Soup Broth

Mentsuyu (麺つゆ)” or the like is usually prepared for the broth. Mentsuyu is the traditional Japanese liquid soup base made by combining “Dashi (出汁)” and “Kaeshi (かえし)”.

Dashi is Japanese soup stock made with Kombu seaweed, Katsuobushi dried bonito flakes, Shiitake mushrooms and so on, while Kaeshi is a traditional Japanese liquid seasoning made from dark soy sauce, sugar, and Mirin sweet cooking rice wine.

Ingredients 

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

Condiments and Garnishes 

We Japanese like to eat Soba with grated horseradish “Wasabi (ワサビ)”, sprinkling the spice mix Shichimi Togarashi over the noodle soup. As a garnish, finely chopped green onions are typically prepared for Soba.

The Meaning of Soba

When Soba is written as “蕎麦” using the Kanji Chinese characters, its meaning is definitely buckwheat or buckwheat noodle. But when Soba is represented by the Japanese Hiragana or Katakana “そば” or “ソバ”, they can refer to several Japanese noodle dishes including buckwheat Soba and Yakisoba.

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Ramen (ラーメン)

Shoyu Ramen

Ramen is the quintessential Japanese noodle dish that is the 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 the major classics.

Noodles 

The noodles for Ramen are mostly made out of wheat flour mixed with a form of alkaline water “Kansui (かん水)” and salt.

Flavors

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

Ingredients

Also, almost any food material can be prepared for Ramen, but roast pork slices “Chashu (チャーシュー)”, processed bamboo shoots “Menma (メンマ)”, thinly sliced scallions, pink and white fish cake “Naruto (ナルト)” are known as the basics, especially for Shoyu Ramen.

Condiments and Garnishes 

Many Japanese like to eat Shoyu Ramen with the pepper “Kosho (胡椒)”, and the regular soy sauce based ramen is typically garnished with sheets of dried seaweed laver “Nori (海苔)”.

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Udon (うどん)

Su Udon

Zaru Udon

As you can see from these photos, Udon can be eaten in the same manners as Soba. 

Noodles 

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

Soup Broth

As with Soba, “Mentsuyu (麺つゆ)” is usually prepared for the broth of Udon noodles, and sometimes curry sauce is added to it.

Ingredients 

Typical ingredients used in the Udon noodle soup are basically the same as the ones for Soba: Tempura, Tenkasu tempura bits, Aburaage, Mochi rice cake, Kamaboko fish cake, fresh raw egg, Wakame seaweed, grated yam, meat (duck, beef, pork), and green onions.

Condiments and Garnishes 

Shichimi Togarashi is known as an essential condiment for Udon, as well as buckwheat Soba noodles. As with Soba, chilled Udon noodles 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 in Japan, Somen is a summer noodle dish where the noodles are usually served chilled in a glass bowl with iced water and the 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 noodles, that is, wheat flour, salt and water. In the case of the machine-made dry noodles, the difference between Somen and Udon noodles 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, the broth for Somen noodles is usually made by watering down the Mentsuyu soup base or the like.

Condiments and Garnishes 

Like the Soba and Udon that are served cold, many Japanese people like to sprinkle the traditional Japanese 7 spice blend Shichimi Togarashi over the Somen noodle soup, and the dish 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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