Today, let's study major Japanese noodles.
First lesson is udon.
Udon noodle is a major type of noodle in Japan. The ingredients are simple. Wheat, water and salt. Then, ramen noodles use animal based stock as like pork or chicken, but udon uses fish or seaweed based stock. Which means udon is less heavy than ramen. Then, it can be served as cold too.
Then, ramen always has various toppings(stewed pork, bamboo shoot, bean sprout, boiled egg and etc.) on it, but udon is rare to mix the toppings. Tempura udon just comes with tempura on it and kitsune(fox) udon comes only with fried tofu.
Japanese like to combine their national foods which is quite unfamiliar in Europe. For example you do not see schnitzel goulash anywhere in Europe, but Japan is different.
Curry udon is a combination of curry with rice and udon noodles. However, it is not just ordinary curry on the udon noodles. Curry is mixed with broth for udon, which makes the soup much smoother, therefore the curry itself is different which you taste with curry with rice.
Curry did not come directly from India but brought by Britons to Japan in late 19th century. British style curry was adapted to Japanese way, to fit with Japanese rice. Since then, Japanese curry with rice became a national food for Japanese.
It is interesting that Europeans are more conservative and strictly follow their traditions. There is no curry spaghetti in Italy nor curry paella in Spain. There is no mixture of Orient and Western in Europe, invented by European. Europeans are the ones who explored the seven seas but hardly introduced non-European foods to their livings. On the other hand, many typical Japanese dished were created in late 19th century or even after the second World war.
May be the most famous udon is Sanuki udon provided in Kagawa prefecture, former Sanuki province. The noodle itself is relatively harder than other udons. Then, usually it is served as self-service which means you have to order at the counter and take it with you to your table by yourself as like the cafeteria. It is common that you can choose the side orders on the spot. Side orders can be various types of tempura(prawn, cuttlefish, chicken, vegetable and etc.) or rice balls.
Kamaage udon is a type of udon noodles which are soaked inside the hot water which was used to boil the noodles. The noodles and the water are placed inside a wooden tub or bowl and eaten with a lukewarm soy sauce based dipping sauce. Therefore, do not put the sauce into the tub!
Normally udon noodles are boiled and then washed by cold water to remove the sliminess but kamaage udon noodles are not washed by cold water at all. Therefore, the mouthfeel will be different then ordinary udon. Then, due to served with dipping sauce, kamaage noodles can be shared easily than other type of warm udon noodles. There are kamaage noodles for two or more, family size too.
Kamaage udon is mostly offered at diners specialized in udon. It is a popular menu at udon diners which are specialized in Sanuki style udon. By the way, Sanuki is a former province in Shikoku, which is currently called Kagawa prefecture.
Yaki-udon is another popular udon dish. Yaki means pan fried and therefore yaki-udon means pan fried udon. Udon noodles are pan fried together with meat, seafood and vegetables. Usually pan fried with cabbage which is not used for udon with soup.
Yaki udon is rarely served at ordinary udon diners. It is much easier to be found at restaurants specialized in Okonomiyaki.
Sara udon uses the name udon but the noodles are champon noodles. Champon noodles are similar to ramen noodles.