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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogUdon vs Soba: Which One Is Better?

Udon vs Soba: Which One Is Better?

Savannah WalkerSavannah Walker
Published Time
Posted on 
November 01, 2023
A bowl of udon that is the start of the udon vs soba debate.

Today, we’re diving into a super delicious topic: udon vs. soba – the ultimate showdown of Japanese noodles! These two noodle champs aren’t just popular in Japan; they’re rocking taste buds worldwide. So, buckle up and prepare for a noodle adventure like no other!

What is udon?

Let’s get into the delicious world of udon! It’s a noodle that’s thick, chewy, and made from a magical blend of wheat flour, water, and a pinch of salt. But here’s the twist: udon isn’t just about lip-smacking deliciousness; it also takes us on a ride through history. Our adventure begins in the Kagawa prefecture of Japan, where udon noodles have captured hearts for centuries. 

A warm bowl of udon with seaweed and fish paste cakes.
Udon uses flour noodles. Image via Shutterstock

Imagine pristine landscapes, fertile fields, and the birth of these hearty noodles that became a culinary sensation. They’re warm, thick noodles in a bowl. Udon brings a whole new meaning to “food with a past.” So, get ready for a fun-filled dive into the udon universe – it’s a journey that’s as exciting as it is tasty, especially on a cold, rainy day!

What are the different types of udon?

Kake Udon: A Bowl of Simple Bliss 

A bowl of kake udon with green onions on top.
This dish features green onion! Image via Shutterstock

Kake udon is the epitome of simplicity and delight. It starts with thick, chewy udon noodles submerged in a steaming dashi broth. The dashi, a Japanese soup base, imparts a subtle umami flavor, and you can customize it with garnishes like green onions, tempura flakes, or grated daikon radish. This udon variation is perfect for those who appreciate the beauty of minimalism and the purity of flavors.

Niku Udon: A Meat Lover’s Dream

A bowl of niku udon.
This dish features strips of delicious meat! Image via Shutterstock

Niku Udon is a dream come true for meat enthusiasts. This hearty dish features thinly sliced, tender beef simmered in a savory broth, creating a delectable umami-packed experience. The beef’s succulence combines seamlessly with the thick udon noodles, making it an ideal choice for those craving a meaty, fulfilling meal. Add-ons like green onions or a sprinkle of shichimi spice can elevate the flavors to your liking.

Curry Udon: A Fusion of Flavors

Curry Udon takes Japanese comfort food to the next level by blending the rich, aromatic flavors of Japanese curry with the cozy embrace of udon noodles. The curry broth, often mildly spicy, coats the noodles, infusing them with its vibrant taste. Depending on your preferences, you can find variations ranging from mildly sweet to intensely spicy.

A bowl of curry udon.
This is a fusion noodle dish! Image via Shutterstock

Toppings like fried tofu, vegetables, or tempura can add extra layers of texture and flavor. This dish is a harmonious fusion that captures the best of both worlds – the comforting warmth of udon and the bold character of Japanese curry. It’s a flavor-packed party for your taste buds that you won’t soon forget.

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What is soba?

Now, let’s hop on the soba train and explore those elegant, slender noodles made from buckwheat flour. But here’s the exciting part: soba isn’t just about deliciousness; it’s a blast from the past, like a time machine that takes us back to the charming town of Togakushi in Nagano, Japan. Picture this: clean, cold waters, fertile soil, and much buckwheat magic.

Someone dipping noodles in sauce.
Most soba comes with a light dipping sauce. Image via Shutterstock

Soba’s been a star in the culinary scene for centuries, offering a unique, nutty flavor that’s like a blast from the past. So, buckle up because this journey into the world of soba is bound to be as fun as it is tasty!

What are the different kinds of soba?

Tanuki Soba: A Textural Adventure

Tanuki soba offers a unique twist to your soba experience by introducing a textural adventure that will pique your taste buds’ curiosity. This dish takes crispy tempura crumbs and generously sprinkles them over your soba noodles.

A bowl of tanuki soba, with tempura bits.
Tanuki soba has a buttery, crunchy flavor! Image via Shutterstock

The result is a delightful crunch in every bite, adding a playful element to the traditional soba experience. As you savor the nutty flavor of the soba, these crispy bits create a contrast that elevates the dish, making it an enjoyable and satisfying choice for those seeking something out of the ordinary.

Tempura Soba: Crispy Meets Subtle Elegance

Tempura soba is where crispy, golden tempura meets the subtle elegance of soba noodles. This delightful marriage of textures and flavors begins with tempura taking a dip in a flavorful broth, which, when combined with the soba, transforms into a symphony of crunch and slurp.

A bowl of tempura soba (with tempura shrimp).
Tempura is lightly battered food! Image via Shutterstock

The crunchy tempura adds a satisfying contrast to the smooth soba, resulting in an indulgent culinary adventure that satisfies both your cravings for crunch and flavor. It’s a dish you won’t want to miss, offering a satisfying experience for your taste buds.

Zaru Soba: A Refreshing Cool Breeze

Zaru soba is the ultimate choice when seeking refreshment on a hot, sunny day. This dish offers a simple yet delightful concept – chilled soba noodles served alongside a dipping sauce. It’s like an edible cool breeze that can whisk away the heat and replenish your spirit.

A plate of zaru soba, buckwheat noodles on a straw plate.
Zaru soba is refreshing during the summertime! Image via Shutterstock

As you slurp the chilled noodles and dip them into the sauce, you’ll experience a revitalizing gust of flavor. Zaru soba is an oasis of refreshment, making it a perfect choice for those looking to escape the scorching sun and savor a simple yet revitalizing soba experience.

Whether craving something cool and light or hot and hearty, soba noodles have you covered! These versatile noodles are all about delivering a taste experience that’s both elegant and earthy.

Udon vs soba–which would you choose?

So, after this noodle-filled adventure, are we any closer to declaring a winner in the udon vs. soba showdown? Well, not entirely – because it’s not about crowning a victor; it’s about celebrating the diversity of flavors and experiences that both udon and soba bring to the table. 

Udon, with its thick, chewy noodles, is your ultimate comfort food. It’s like a warm, satisfying noodle hug on a chilly day. The simplicity of its ingredients belies the complex satisfaction it delivers. It’s the friend you turn to for solace, and it never disappoints. 

A bowl of green tea soba.
You can even have noodles that taste like green tea! Image via Shutterstock

On the other hand, soba brings an air of elegance to your dining experience. With its slender, nutty-flavored noodles, it’s like a sophisticated dance for your taste buds. Soba takes you on a culinary journey, introducing you to subtleties and nuances you might have never encountered.

But here’s the real takeaway: you don’t have to choose between udon and soba. In the vibrant world of Japanese cuisine, there’s room for both these delightful noodles – and more! The next time you find yourself at a Japanese restaurant, why not order both and embark on a thrilling noodle adventure? 

Japanese cuisine, with its diverse range of flavors and textures, has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re slurping up a steaming bowl of udon on a chilly day or savoring the delicate nuttiness of soba in the sunshine, one thing’s for sure: when it comes to noodles, it’s a culinary voyage you won’t want to miss. Udon vs soba–which would you choose? Let us know in the comments below!

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