Udon (うどん) are thick Japanese noodles made of wheat flour. They are thicker than soba noodles, white and chewier. Udon is widely available at restaurants across Japan and prepared in various hot and cold dishes.
Popular Udon Dishes
Below is a list of udon dishes that tourists will commonly find at restaurants across Japan. Note that there are some regional differences in terms of naming and seasoning.
Where to eat udon
Udon can be found across Japan on the menu at specialty udon restaurants (udon-ya) and soba restaurants (soba-ya), casual dining restaurants such as family restaurants, izakaya and eateries around tourist sites. There also exist several popular, low-cost udon restaurant chains with outlets in the large cities and along national routes. The dining out section explains what to expect inside a sit-down restaurant in Japan.
A regular udon dish at an average restaurant typically costs between 500 yen and 1000 yen, but low-cost udon chains often sell meals for under 500 yen. At more upmarket eateries or for more elaborate udon dishes, expect to pay from 1000 yen to 1500 yen per person.
A sample menu at an udon shop in both Japanese and English
At some busy train stations, standing udon restaurants can be found for a quick meal between train rides. Ordering at standing restaurants is as simple as buying your meal ticket from the vending machine, giving it to the staff and enjoying your noodles while standing at the counter.
Some of the low-cost udon chains work similar to a cafeteria line. Upon entering the restaurant, customers pick up a tray, order the dish from the staff behind the counter and then choose eventual side dishes such as tempura, rice balls or oden (simmered vegetables) before moving to the cashier at the end of the counter.
The front of an Udon-ya with the menu on the wall
How to eat udon
Depending on how your udon are served, the way of eating differs. When udon are served with a dipping sauce, take a few strands of noodles and dip them into the sauce before eating them.
Udon served in a soup or sauce are enjoyed by using your chopsticks to lead the noodles into your mouth while making a slurping sound. The slurping enhances the flavors and helps cool down the hot noodles as they enter your mouth. If there is a broth, it is drunk directly from the bowl, eliminating the need for a spoon. It is not considered rude to leave some unfinished soup in the bowl at the end of the meal.
Rinsing starch off freshly cooked udon
Udon is popular all across Japan. Below is a list of some of the most common regional varieties: