Spaghetti, farfalle, ravioli and tagliatelle are just four of the many different pasta types that are available here in Europe. On the other side of the world, in Asia, you’ll find the same noodle diversity, with as many variations as there are pasta. One of the main differences is that pasta is made with eggs and wheat flour, whereas noodles are based on wheat, rice or starch. Asian noodles come in just as many forms and flavours as their European counterparts. Traditional Japanese cuisine and other Asian national cuisines serve specific types of noodles with specific dishes. Here are the most important ones.
Japanese ramen noodles
Ramen is one of the most popular foods in Japan - as a snack, a street food offering or an elegant restaurant dish. Ramen noodles are made with wheat, salt, water and alkalinised water called kansui. They come in different lengths, shapes and thicknesses. Some are straight; others are curly.
Ramen noodles are served in a meat or vegetable broth seasoned with soy sauce or miso paste. Toppings include thin strips of pork belly (chāshū), dried seaweed (nori), a scattering of bamboo shoots (menma) and spring onions. There are many regional variations on this delicious noodle dish.
Japanese udon noodles
Udon noodles are also native to Kikkoman’s homeland of Japan. Like European pasta they are made from wheat, salt and water. These are the thickest of all Japanese noodles and often served in a hot broth made from fish stock (dashi), seasoned with soy sauce, mirin and sometimes a sprinkling of mixed chilli pepper (shichimi). Typical toppings include finely chopped spring onions, shrimps and vegetables fried in tempura batter (kakiage), tofu pouches (aburaage) and slices of kamaboko, which is Japanese fish cake. Udon noodles, broth and toppings differ from region to region.
The noodles are suitable for stir frying to complement vegetables, meat and fish. Stir-fried udon is called yaki udon. In summer people often eat cold udon in soups, noodle dishes or salads with whatever ingredients are in season.
Japanese soba noodles
Grey-brown soba noodles are an important element of traditional Japanese cuisine, which is known as washoku. Buckwheat and water are mixed together to make soba, and it is the buckwheat that gives the noodles their delicate yet distinctive nutty flavour. When matcha is added to the mix the noodles take on a light green colour.
Soba is traditionally eaten cold with various dips and as a noodle soup ingredient. Most soups with soba have a fish stock (dashi) base seasoned with soy sauce. The seasonal ingredients that are used in soba dishes and the toppings are generally the same as the ones in udon dishes.
Japanese somen noodles
Somen noodles are very fine, white and long noodles made of wheat, salt and water. They are thinner than udon. Somen is a popular dish in hot weather, when it is served cold with a dipping sauce (dashi), soy sauce and fresh ginger.
Japanese shirataki noodles
These translucent noodles are very low on fat and carbohydrates. That’s why they’re heralded as "miracle noodles" by people hoping to shed a few pounds. Shirataki noodles are made from the root of the konjac plant and are mostly flavourless. Because of this property, the noodles can take on almost any flavour that is cooked with and are used in almost all Asian dishes. Try our Shirataki Linguini or our Shirataki Salad.
Asian rice noodles
The principal ingredients of typical Asian rice noodles are rice flour and water. Rice noodles are prepared by pouring boiling water over them until they are completely submerged and then leaving them to stand until tender, which can take just a few minutes or longer depending on thickness and width. Rice noodles are served as a side with wok dishes, or used as salad and soup ingredients. They are one of the most widely used ingredients in East Asian cuisine and can generally be incorporated in a gluten-free diet. Are you gluten free? Have you tried our Tamari Gluten-free Soy Sauce?
Asian glass noodles
As the name suggests, Asian glass noodles are almost transparent. They are made from starch - usually mung bean, potato, sweet potato, tapioca or canna starch - and water. Glass noodles are sold in dried form and soaked to reconstitute for use in soups, stir fried dishes or spring rolls.
Kikkoman's tip- Garnish your next wok-cooked dish with fried glass noodles. Check out our video to see how you can achieve a yummy and crunchy result.
Chinese egg noodles
Also known as mie noodles, Chinese egg noodles are made from wheat, water, salt and eggs. As a result, they are similar in appearance, flavour and preparation to European spaghetti. The intensive flavour of mie noodles, due to the high egg content, makes them suitable for more savoury sauces, and their rough texture allows the sauce to stick to them better. Try them in our Teriyaki Noodles with Steak Tips.