U for Udon

Udon dough can be difficult to knead, and there are people who swear by stomping on the dough to relax and smoothen it. If you are intent on doing it, put the dough in a large zip lock bag without fully sealing it, place the bag between two kitchen towels on the floor and stomp away!

Udon is one of the typical noodle dishes in Japan. It is made with flour and some salt. The dough is then kneaded and shaped into noodles, thicker than the average regular noodles.

The exact origin of udon is unknown but it is believed that udon came from China in the 700s. It became widely popular to the public during the Edo era in the 1600s.

The Japanese eat udon with chopsticks. And it is okay to slurp the noodles, unlike in the west where it is considered rude to do so.

There are udon restaurants all over Japan, which specialize on udon noodles. 

Kagawa Prefecture in the north of Japan is famed for their best-in-the-world udon noodles. So much so that Kagawa locals eat seven times more udon on average than other people in Japan!

The origins of udon can be traced back to 1,200 years ago. According to legend, Kukai, a monk from Kagawa, went to China as a research scholar to study and bring back the latest knowledge and technology in Buddhism, architecture, and engineering. He also brought back udon noodles enjoyed by the local people in China.

Takinomiya shrine is associated as the birthplace of udon, a stone relic in the shrine called the Ryutoin-ato marking where the first udon was made. What Kukai learned about making udon in China, he taught other family members, and it is said the family ate udon at this spot.

Originally Udon was not made as strands but as pieces of flat dough. In some parts of Japan, Udon is still cut into squares rather than the long strands that became standard by the early fourteenth century. They can can be either flat or rounded.

Udon noodles are typically served as a noodle soup in a hot broth, either in the Kanto style with Bonito dashi and strong soy sauce or in the Kansai style with Kombu dashi and mild soy sauce. They can also be served cold, with a dipping sauce. 

Meat, vegetables, fish, fish paste, and tempura can be added to the Udon soup, with ginger, green onions, shiso, and spicy radish as common toppings.

Udon Soup with Spinach and Eggs


  • 28 ounces precooked, vacuum-sealed udon or 12 ounces dried udon
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin or sake
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Place a colander in the sink and using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the noodles to the colander and run under cold water to stop the noodles from cooking further. Drain again.
  • In the same pot of water, add the spinach. Cook for about 60 seconds, until the leaves are wilted but still bright green. Drain, emptying the water from pot, and run the spinach under cold water. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then scrunch the spinach into a ball and slice.
  • In the same pot, add enough water to submerge the eggs. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Add the eggs, reduce heat to medium to keep it on a gentle rolling simmer, and cook for 8 minutes. (This will give you a just-set yolk; for a runnier yolk, remove after 7 minutes.) Remove eggs from the water immediately and run under cold water until the egg is cold to the touch. Place the eggs in a bowl of cold water.
  • Set out four large bowls. Divide the udon noodles among the bowls.
  • Make the broth: Heat a large pot over medium. Add the sesame oil, garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the remaining broth ingredients, along with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and gently simmer for 4 to 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Slice each egg in half lengthwise. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles. Top each bowl with a mound of spinach, 2 egg halves, scallions and sesame seeds.

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