If you are a Japanese food lover or have been to a lot of Japanese places you must have heard the names of yaki soba and udon. At least udon is something everyone has heard of. It is unlikely that someone has been a noodles lover and never loved udon.
Well, both of these items have the base food noodles in them yet the taste and flavor are quite different in both. From ingredients to texture, to nutrients, all of these things are different which makes both of the dishes unique and extremely popular. To know more about these scrumptious dishes, let’s dive deep into their in and out!
What is Yaki Soba
By definition, it is a Japanese popular dish that includes stir-fried noodles, vegetables, and different types of meat. The meat can also be pork or chicken. In fact, if you translate the name of the dish directly into English it will be something like “fried noodles”. The noodles don’t have to be of a specific type. But usually, they are wheat-based and sometimes egg noodles or ramen noodles. In Japan, it is a popular street food.
It can be found in almost all restaurants too. You can find it in Japanese restaurants around the world too. The reason why it got so popular is because of how delicious and satisfying it is. It has the perfect combination of texture and flavors. It gives the perfect blend of the chewiness of the noodles, the tenderness of the meat, and a little freshness and crispiness from the vegetables.
Since we already mentioned the ingredients and their combination, let’s move on to the flavor and taste of this amazing dish. It is mainly salty and savory because of the spices and ingredients added. The noodles are often left a bit chewy to enhance the texture. It tastes great with soft meat and crispy vegetables. The seasoning and soya sauce in particular creates a salty note that gives it the east asian vibe.
After that, we have to highlight the Umami taste in it. It comes directly from the soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or oyster sauce used in it. These add a distinct umami taste to the dish. It also tastes a bit sweet sometimes in other versions. Some people add sugar or rice wine to it for a sophisticated flavor. But mainly the flavors are very balanced. The saltiness gets even out with the spices and vegetables. The freshness with a hint of sweetness creates harmony among the ingredients that bring out the best flavors of all the ingredients.
Preparing yaki soba isn’t all that complicated as some of the fine Japanese dishes. It is more like a regular food with low effort. The noodles are boiled like any other and then drained. The meat, vegetables, or other ingredients you want to add are fired in oil with garlic, ginger, and other spices. When the smell and flavor are there, the cooked noodles are added. Then they are cooked with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or oyster sauce.
Then they are cooked thoroughly so that the spices are spread through the noodles. Once they are cooked thoroughly and combined, vegetables look soft and boiled enough we know that it is done. People often add unique ingredients to get a different taste. Green onions, pickled ginger, and shredded nori or seaweed are added to offer a versatile taste. It also gives the flavor a new kick. People also substitute vegetables and other ingredients like tofu, shrimp, etc based on personal preferences
Types of Soba
1. Classic Yaki Soba
It is the classic or standard version that has stir-fried noodles, meat, and vegetables as we mentioned above. The vegetables are also basic like cabbage, carrots, sprouts, etc.
2. Seafood Yaki
As you can tell from the name, it includes various types of seafood like shrimp, squid, scallops, or all o them together along with noodles and vegetables. The seafood is stir-fried like the veggies and then added to the noodles with seasoning.
3. Vegetable Yaki Soba
There’s also a vegan or vegetarian version of these noodles where no meat, egg, or seafood is added. Only includes colorful and various types of vegetables. Vegans can also add tofu and mushrooms to bring uniqueness.
4. Kimchi Yaki Soba
Although kimchi is known to be Korean, it can be added to yaki soba for creating an excellent version of it. It is also popular for its spicy and tangy flavor that comes from added kimchi. It brings a zesty twist to the whole dish.
5. Kake Soba
This one features soba noodles with kakeriju which is a hot soup or broth with niboshi (dried sardines), bonito flakes, and kelp. It tastes so good and adds a portion of protein.
6. Tempura Soba
When soba noodles are served with tempura on top it gives you both the crispiness and runny soup in one bowl.
7. Zaru Soba
This one is the most unique. It is served cold with mirin-based sauce which is called tsuyu.
8. Yakisoba pan
It is served as a sandwich where the noodles are sandwiched between a hot dog bun or a roll.
What is Udon?
Udon is also a type of noodle in Japanese cuisine that is made from wheat. It is mostly served in soup or stir-fried dishes. It is very slippery and chewy, to begin with. The soup makes it runny too. The soup can be thick or thin based on different types. It is sometimes referred to as comfort food because of how comforting it can taste. Although udon can be of different types, based on the types it can have some specific taste.
The taste of udon is usually very mild and neutral because of which it is called a comfort food. The main focus stays on the broth that is used to make it. The bland soup makes other ingredients taste more distinct. The broth is also made from dashi 9Japanese soup stock) as a base for the soup. Dashi has a rich flavor too. The umami taste that you might get comes from kombu which is kelp- another ingredient of this dish.
It also has the magic of soy sauce like yaki soba. Soy sauce gives it a salty and subtle flavor that overall changes the taste of other ingredients. Udon is also topped with green onions, nori, daikon radish, tempura, meat, etc. These toppings add different flavors to every bite and play harmonious notes of texture and taste. A warm flavorful udon with chewy noodles is very comforting and enjoyable.
That is why it has been popular all over the world. The satisfying taste of udon has touched many hearts of foreigners while carrying all the Japanese taste and flavors with it.
Types of udon
1. Kitsune Udon
It features udon served in dashi broth with toppings of fried tofu called ‘abura-age’. It mixes the udon and broth really well.
2. Tempura Udon
It has steaming hot broth with crispy fried tempura as the topping! Tempura can be of prawns, seafood, vegetables, etc. But the textures go so well together despite being the opposite.
3. Niku Udon
This has sliced pork meat in it. The pork is cooked in soya sauce-based broth with the noodles. Together they make a savory and comforting dish that is very popular throughout Japan.
4. Miso Udon
If the udon has miso-based broth we call it miso udon. If you don't know yet Japanese eat miso soup frequently and it is very healthy. It is usually fermented soybean paste. It tastes very rich and savory. Toppings can include green onions, tofu, etc.
5. Yaki Udon
Surprised? Well, just like yaki soba there is yaki udon. Here the noodles used in udon are stir-fried with meat, vegetables, and sauce. They are also made chewier than yaki soba to keep the signature udon characteristic. Learn how to make yaki udon “the easiest noodles ever” with this popular YouTuber
6. Beef udon
It is where tender beef slices are served with udon to improve the overall flavor. It is also simmered in broth to enhance the taste. You can also get kimchi-flavored udon here to get a combination of two amazing dishes.
Differences between Yaki Soba and Udon
There are huge differences between yaki soba and udon. Some of them are
1. The base noodles used in both dishes are different. Yaki soba is wheat based which is usually soba noodles but can be egg noodled too. Udon has different types of noodles. It is made from wheat flour, it is thick and chewy. Udon noodles are also handmade. They are made by kneading the what with water. Then they are rolled and formed into strips by cutting.
2. Cooking technique is also far different. As we explained above yaki soba is served with fried items like vegetables, meat, etc. The dish itself is also stir-fried. But udon on the other hand is boiled and served with broth.
3. Yaki soba has a firm and springy texture and they are thinner. They are only slightly chewy. But udon has thick noodles and it is made chewy to taste better with broth. The textures of both dishes are very different. Udon is soft and slippery too.
4. Flavors range slightly different as well. Udon has a sweet, savory, and a bit of tangy taste from the broth. It is because of the soya sauce and other ingredients getting highlights due to the base soup. But soba is salty, savory, and sweet. The sweetness might not be there always but it is one of the distinct taste.
5. Preparing the dishes are also different. Yaki soba doesn’t have as many ingredients as udon. Soba only has vegetables, meat, and noodles with seasonings of course. But udon can have a variety of toppings. Other than the soup that is constant it has many other species, toppings, veggies, etc.
6. Yaki soba is more like a street food if we consider its origins. It is enjoyed on occasion, at festivals, and found in food carts. But udon is more traditional. It can taste and look different across different regions and be served at restaurants too.
7. Nutritional balance is a major concern for some people. And rightfully so. Although they can’t be exactly compared but according to cooking methods, udon is much healthier than yaki soba. According to a study, resistant starch‐supplemented udon noodles prevent impaired glucose tolerance. This study might explain a lot of health complications around glucose intake too.
The study also says that that type of udon induces intestinal immunoglobulin. That might explain the longevity among Japanese. In the current world where everyone is struggling with antibiotic resistance, this study brings hope. But on the other hand, yaki soba is stir-fried in oil. So it might increase fat in our bodies which is also harmful. So comparing both, yaki soba sounds less healthy. Nonetheless, you can count calories based on the type.
Both of the dishes have different sides. If you are looking for a particular feature you can focus on one characteristic like the taste or nutrition, etc. But both of the dishes are very popular in most countries. There are different types of them for you to choose and decide as well. If you want a good amount of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and a quick lunch to grab you can consider both of these dishes to go with!