Culinary Arts

What Are Udon Noodles? Learn About the Origins of Udon Noodles, Plus a Recipe for Homemade Udon Noodles

Written by MasterClass

Aug 9, 2019 • 3 min read

Learn how to make udon noodles step-by-step the traditional way, with just three ingredients.

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What Are Udon Noodles?

Udon are chewy Japanese noodles made from wheat flour, water, and salt, typically served in a simple dashi-based broth. They’re thicker than buckwheat soba noodles—typically two to four millimeters—and can be either flat or rounded. Udon dough can be difficult to knead, and some swear by stomping on the dough to relax it.

Udon noodles in bowl with chopsticks

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Where Did Udon Noodles Originate?

The earliest iteration of udon noodles likely originated in China and was introduced to Japan during the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE). The original udon may have been closer to a dumpling than a noodle, and in some parts of Japan, udon is still cut into squares rather than the long strands that became standard by the early fourteenth century.

Traditionally made at home, udon began to be sold in specialty stalls after the popularity of commercial in the seventeenth century. Today, udon is eaten throughout Japan but especially in the south, from Osaka to Kyushu.

How Are Udon Noodles Typically Served?

Udon noodles are typically served as a noodle soup in a hot broth, but they can also be served cold, with a dipping sauce. Some of the more popular udon dishes are:

  • Kake udon. The simplest way to serve udon is in kakejiru, a noodle broth made from dashi, soy sauce, and mirin.
  • Miso nikomi udon. Hearty udon stew cooked in miso soup with vegetables.
  • Curry udon. Coated in Japanese curry roux.
  • Udon suki. A hot pot noodle dish where a platter of cooked udon noodles is topped with bean curd, bamboo shoots, eel, shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, mochi, daikon radish, spinach, and chicken, and served alongside individual bowls of broth for dipping.
  • Yaki udon. Stir-fried udon with soy sauce, sesame oil, and veggies, such as scallions and napa cabbage or bok choy, sometimes garnished with sesame seeds. Can be made vegan or with meat.

Homemade Udon Noodle Recipe

Makes
6
Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
  • 1½ –2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cornstarch or potato starch, for dusting (optional: Use flour if you don’t have cornstarch or potato starch)
  1. In a large bowl or measuring cup, stir water and salt together to dissolve.
  2. On a clean work surface, pile the flour into a mound with a well in the center. Slowly add water to the center of the well, working it into the flour with your hands to form a stiff dough. (You may not use all of the water, or you may need a little more. Higher-protein flours, such as bread flour, will require more water.)
  3. Let the dough rest 10 minutes. Knead dough until firm but smooth, about 5 minutes. If you find it difficult to knead, you can transfer the dough to a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag, leaving a gap for air to escape. Place the bag between two clean kitchen towels and knead the dough by stepping on it with your feet.
  4. Cover the dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let rest 2–8 hours, depending on the kitchen temperature (more time in a cold room, less time in a hot room).
  5. Dust a clean work surface with flour and use a rolling pin to roll dough into a rectangle ¼- to ⅛-inch thick, rotating dough as you knead. (Alternatively, use a pasta machine to roll dough.)
  6. With the short end of the rectangle facing you, dust dough with starch and fold, accordion-style, into quarters. There should be enough space between folds to insert a chopstick into the centerfold.
  7. Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut folded dough into ¼-inch-thick noodles. Lift noodles onto a chopstick inserted into the centerfold to lift.
  8. Bring a large pot of unsalted water to boil. Add noodles gradually, so that the water continues to boil. Cook until noodles are slightly more tender than al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water, keeping the noodles separate by shaking the colander. Serve in broth or with a dipping sauce.

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