Ramen vs Udon vs Soba

Ramen vs Udon vs Soba

When it comes to Japanese noodles, the three most notable are ramen, udon, and soba. Each of these noodles has its own unique characteristics, ingredients, and history that have helped shape Japanese food culture and influence cuisines around the world.

Ramen is perhaps the most popular of the three, known for its rich broth and chewy noodles. The key ingredients in ramen include wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui, an alkaline mineral water that gives the noodles their signature springy texture. Ramen broth can vary from pork-based tonkotsu to clear shoyu or miso broths, each with its own distinct flavor profile.

Toppings like chashu (roasted/braised pork), soft-boiled eggs, nori (seaweed), and green onions add depth and complexity to the dish. Ramen has a long history in Japan, with its origins dating back to the late 19th century. Chinese immigrants introduced wheat noodles to Japan, which eventually led to the creation of ramen as we know it today. Ramen shops quickly gained popularity in Japan, offering a warm and comforting meal that was affordable and satisfying.

Ramen became a staple in Japanese diets, especially during the cold winter months. Ramen has undoubtedly become the most popular internationally, with tonkotsu (pork bone) broth leading the way and even some tsukemen dipping style varieties from leading chain shops now gaining traction in the US and other countries over the last decade. Notable shops in the LA area include Tsujita, Daikokuya, and Shin Sen Gumi.

Udon noodles, on the other hand, are much thicker and chewier than ramen noodles, made with just wheat flour, water, and salt. These noodles are typically served in a clear dashi broth, made from kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), giving the dish a light and umami-rich flavor. Toppings for udon can vary but often include tempura, green onions, and kamaboko (fish cake). Udon noodles have been a part of Japanese cuisine for centuries, with origins dating back to the Nara period (710-794). The noodles were first introduced to Japan by
Buddhist monks from China, who believed that the thick noodles would help them stay full and satiated during long periods of fasting. Udon noodles quickly gained popularity in Japan, becoming a staple in households and restaurants across the country.

Udon is also a vegan friendly noodle because unlike ramen, eggs are not used in their production. Not as many shops in the LA area specialize in Udon, but notable ones that do include Musashiya and Marugame Monzo.


Soba noodles, perhaps the healthiest and nutrient-dense of the three varieties, is made from buckwheat flour, water, and sometimes wheat flour. They are thinner and more delicate than udon noodles. The nutty and earthy flavor of buckwheat gives soba noodles a unique taste that pairs well with toppings like tempura, green onions, and nori. Soba noodles have a long history in Japan, dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Soba noodles were originally considered a luxury food reserved for special occasions, as buckwheat was an expensive and labor-intensive crop to cultivate. However, as the cultivation of buckwheat became more widespread, soba
noodles became more accessible and eventually became a common dish in Japanese households. Most soba is made with a blend of wheat and buckwheat, with 100% buckwheat varieties being somewhat rare. The ratio of the blend and the flavor profile of the tsuyu means even small differences during preparation can profoundly change the resulting flavors and textures. If you enjoy dipping your noodles and quickly slurping them, soba is the dish you're looking for. Notable shops specializing in soba around Los Angeles include Ichimiann and Otafuku.

Each of these noodle types has played a significant role in shaping Japanese food culture and influencing cuisines around the world. Ramen, with its rich and flavorful broths, has become a global phenomenon, with ramen shops popping up in cities around the world. Udon, with its simple yet satisfying flavor, is a popular comfort food in Japan and beyond. Soba, with its delicate flavor and versatile preparations, is a beloved dish for special occasions and everyday meals.

Kenchan began with an initial menu of ramen offerings that we have expanded over the last several years, and we are happy to announce upcoming product lines featuring Udon and Soba noodles! These kits will be made with the same fresh, premium ingredients and attention to dietary restrictions that you've come to expect from us. Thanks for your continued patronage!

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