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Udon is a type of thick wheat-flour noodle popular in Japanese cuisine.
Udon noodles are thick and white, usually just under ¼ inch thick. They can be flat, rounded, or squared, and on rare occasions udon dough is shaped into squares as it was historically. Typically, udon noodles are made with wheat flour, sometimes supplementing with additional ingredients like potato starch. The noodles have a characteristic slippery and springy, chewy texture—when cooked, the noodles should be chewy all the way through without being mushy.
Udon are made with minimal ingredients, shaped from a basic dough of wheat flour, salt, and water. After kneading, the dough is rested to allow relaxation, before being rolled into sheets. Thick noodles are then cut from the sheets.
The noodles can typically be found in fresh, fresh-frozen, and dried forms. Some stores may also sell pre-cooked udon noodles, which can be directly used in a dish without boiling first.
Udon noodles, whether fresh, frozen, or dried, are generally boiled in water to cook them before incorporation into the final dish.
Udon are often served hot in a variety of broths to make a noodle soup. The flavor of broth and topping vary from region to region. Usually, dark brown broth, made from dark soy sauce (koikuchi shōyu) is used in eastern Japan, and light brown broth, made from light soy sauce (usukuchi shōyu) is used in western Japan. This is even noticeable in packaged instant udon, which are often sold in two different versions for east and west Japan.
A simple form of udon noodle soup is kake udon, consisting of udon in a kakejiru broth made of dashi, soy sauce (shōyu), and mirin. It is usually topped with thinly chopped scallions. Other common toppings include tempura, often prawn or kakiage (a type of mixed tempura fritter), or abura age, a type of deep-fried tofu pockets seasoned with sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. A thin slice of kamaboko, a halfmoon-shaped fish cake, is often added. Shichimi can be added to taste.
Miso nikomi udon is another udon soup where udon noodles are added to a flavorful miso and vegetable soup.
In addition to their use in soup, udon noodles may also be served with a dipping sauce, stir-fried, or made into noodle salads. Yaki udon consists of udon noodles stir fried with a savory sauce, and vegetables like scallion and cabbage.
Kake udon soup
Curry udon soup
Extremely wide kawahaba udon from Saitama
Udon noodles served with sauce for dipping