Curry udon is an incredibly versatile dish, which means it’s great for all kinds of meals.
You can eat it as a main course or even use it as a base for other recipes like chicken teriyaki.
There’s no denying that this noodle soup has been around forever – but did you know that there were actually two different versions of curry udon before modern times?
In fact, one was so popular back then that it became known as “the king of noodles.”
What Is Curry Udon?
If you’ve ever had a bowl of ramen, you may be familiar with the concept of udon (うんどん).
It’s made from wheat flour, water, and salt, and it comes in various shapes and sizes depending on your region.
But while they look similar, udon noodles are not interchangeable between countries.
For example, if you want to try some authentic Japanese food, don’t order up Chinese-style udon!
The most common type of udon is what we call “regular udon” or “plain udon.” This is sometimes referred to as “Japanese style udon” because it’s typically served without anything added to it.
The texture is slightly spongy, and it’s usually served cold, although many restaurants will warm them up a bit once they arrive at their table.
But if you want something more flavorful, you can choose from several types of udon noodles.
Some of these include:
- Kanamaru Udon (green tea udon)
- Ramune Udon (chicken flavored udon)
- Yakitori Udon (grilled udon)
- Tsukemen Udon (thickened broth udon)
- Mukunui Udon (sweet potato udon)
- Hijiki Udon (sea vegetable udon)
- Shoyu Ramen Udon (ramen with soy sauce flavor)
- Soba Udon (buckwheat flour udon)
You might also see people refer to plain udon as “nagashi udon,” which literally translates into “floating udon.” If you’re looking for a lighter option, however, you should definitely avoid nagashi udon, since its noodle strands tend to float on top of the broth instead of sinking down below it.
As for how to cook udon, it depends on the method you prefer.
There are multiple ways to prepare udon, including boiling it in a pot of water, stir frying it in oil or butter, and adding spices directly to the cooking liquid.
However, the easiest and fastest way to get started is by making instant curry udon.
All you need is hot water and some seasoning powder.
What Are The Ingredients In Curry Udon?
The first version of curry udon dates back to Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867).
It uses curry powder instead of an actual paste because it didn’t exist yet, and it also includes sesame oil to add flavor.
The second version of the dish appeared in the late 19th century with the introduction of instant rice into Japan, and it used only the powdered form of curry powder.
Both versions call for kombu seaweed, but they differ slightly.
Curry udon from the early 1800s contained shiitake mushrooms, while those served later on used maitake mushrooms.
Both varieties include onion flakes, soy sauce, sugar, sake, and salt.
To finish off both dishes, dried bonito flakes are added.
If you want to go really old school, though, you can omit everything except the seaweed, onions, and bonito flakes.
While these may seem like minor differences, they actually mean that they’re very distinct dishes.
For instance, when using the original recipe, your stew will be much thicker than if you follow the instructions for the more recent version of curried udon.
How Do You Make Curry Udon?
This version of curry udon comes from Japan, where it used to be called izakaya-style curry udon.
It consists of long strands of thick wheat flour (known as mochiko) and rice noodles, along with various spices.
These noodles are stir fried until they become tender and coated with a rich sauce made from soybeans, miso paste, sugar, ginger, and garlic.
You don’t need much more than these basic ingredients to get started on your own curry udon.
If you want to add some kick to your dinner, feel free to experiment with different types of sauces and seasonings, such as fish sauce, sesame oil, and red chili pepper flakes.
If you would rather stick to traditional flavors, however, here’s how to make curry udon without any extra additions:
- Cook 2 cups of dry short grain white rice according to package directions.
- Add 1 cup of water to a large pot over medium heat. Once the water begins boiling, slowly pour in 1/4 teaspoon of salt per cup of liquid.
- Once the mixture returns to a boil, reduce the temperature to low and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
- While waiting for the rice to finish cooking, prepare the rest of your ingredients by mixing together 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 4 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and 6 cloves of minced garlic.
- In another bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of yellow miso paste, 5 teaspoons of sake (or mirin), and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
- Now, drain and rinse the cooked rice under cold running water. Add them both to the same pot, along with the spice mix that we just prepared. Cook everything together for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Afterwards, remove the contents of the pot from the stovetop and set aside to cool down completely. Stir in 1 pound of dried thin rice noodles.
- When everything has cooled down enough to handle, strain out the excess starch using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids.
- Return the strained broth to the pan and cook over medium heat. Keep adding small amounts of water while whisking constantly until the mixture becomes creamy and smooth.
- Keep cooking the broth until it reaches a consistency similar to heavy cream. At this point, the broth should taste sweetened with a little bit of sweetness thanks to the brown sugar.
- Serve hot!
What Is The History Of Curry Udon?
The first version of curry udon appeared in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).
It had its roots in China when rice noodles were introduced into Japan by Chinese immigrants from Fujian province.
The noodles came with a thick sauce made up of soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and garlic that would be stirred constantly until the mixture turned dark brown in color.
It wasn’t long before chefs started adding meat such as beef, pork, and seafood to their dishes.
They also added ground spices including ginger, scallions, black pepper, star anise, cloves, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, coriander seed, and onion powder to give them more flavor.
By the late 19th century, curry udon was being served almost exclusively in restaurants where customers could order it by the bowl.
After World War II, however, people began making it themselves because they couldn’t find restaurants serving it anymore.
Why does curry udon taste good?
You may think that udon doesn’t need much seasoning since it comes out of a tube.
But if you haven’t tried it yet, I urge you to give it a shot.
Udon is packed full of umami flavors thanks to the addition of MSG: monosodium glutamate.
MSG isn’t just used in Asian cuisines either.
It can be found in many American brands of bread products too!
Even though curry udon is typically eaten cold, try cooking it in your Instant Pot IP-DUO60 electric pressure cooker.
By using this appliance, you can get a flavorful, creamy texture while keeping the overall cooking time down to less than 45 minutes.
What Are Some Popular Variations Of Curry Udon?
The first version of curry udon may be called kari udon (カレイウドン), which literally translates to “spicy rice noodle.” It’s made from thin rice flour strands, along with spices including turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, pepper, and more.
The broth is usually flavored using soy sauce and fish stock.
This type of curry udon has been in existence since ancient Japan, when it would have been enjoyed by royalty and commoners alike.
During the Edo period, it was also served to guests visiting temples and shrines.
Today, many people enjoy making their own homemade kari udon.
If you’re looking to make your own, it’s pretty simple! All you need is rice flour and water, along with whatever spice blends you want.
You can experiment with different flavors until you find something you love.
Then just cook up a batch and add some toppings for extra flair.
If you don’t like spicy food, you might not want to try out the traditional version of curry udon.
Instead, check out our low-carbohydrate recipe for gluten-free brown rice udon.
These noodles contain less carbohydrates than regular white wheat flour noodles, so they won’t fill you up quite as much.
You can easily swap out meat for veggies if you prefer a vegetarian alternative.
One popular option is adding vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, corn, bell peppers, and tomatoes into the pot while cooking the noodles.
Just make sure you drain them well after sautéing.
If you decide to go down the poultry road, it’s best to start off by removing the bones.
That will help keep things lighter on your stomach.
Next, season the chicken with salt and pepper, along with any additional herbs and spices you choose to include.
After marinating the chicken overnight, remove it from the fridge about 30 minutes prior to starting the process.
Next, heat up a wok over medium heat and pour in 1/4 cup oil.
Once hot, add the chicken and stir-fry until golden brown.
Add in 4 cloves minced garlic and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds.
Stir everything together and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
Once cooked through, turn off the stove and toss in the carrots, celery, snow peas, and red bell pepper.
Cook it for another 3 minutes before tossing in the drained noodles.
Finally, mix in the broth, soy sauce, and sriracha sauce to taste.
Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.
How Do You Serve Curry Udon?
This noodle soup is best served hot with a side of vegetables.
It goes well with rice dishes too (like fried rice), though in Japan, they tend to be more common than cold noodle soups.
It also works well when eaten alongside grilled meats.
That said, if your dinner plans call for something lighter, you could always try serving curry udon over pasta instead.
Just remember not to overcook it!
What Are Some Popular Toppings For Curry Udon?
If you’re looking to add flavor to your curry udon, try adding in fresh herbs, vegetables, or spices.
Some tasty options include:
- Fresh gingerroot (peeled)
- Green onions (chopped)
- Scallions (thinly sliced)
- Pineapple chunks
- Red pepper flakes
- Soy sauce (shredded nori added into soy sauce gives it extra depth)
- Garlic cloves (minced)
- Shredded cabbage
- Lime wedges
Of course, if you want something more substantial, you could also top it off with meat, fish, eggs, tofu, shrimp, or anything else you would pair with curry!
Just be sure to keep the flavors light by using mild seasonings and sauces when possible.
Don’t forget about rice
Adding on a little bit of rice will help balance out the richness from the sauce and give you a complete meal.
If you’d prefer not to put too much effort into making rice, just add cooked white or brown rice directly onto the plate along with your curry udon.
What Are Some Common Side Dishes Served With Curry Udon?
While we often think about noodles when talking about curry udon, this isn’t just your average bowl of ramen! There are plenty of options to choose from if you want to add another element to your meal, such as meatballs, fried eggs, or vegetables.
Plus, since curry udon is made with lots of spices and herbs, it works well with both sweet and savory flavors.
- Sweet potatoes – These root veggies are high in vitamin A and fiber, making them healthy additions to any meal.
- Seaweed salad – Seaweed is rich in minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, and more. It also contains trace amounts of vitamins B1, B3, C, E, K, and folic acid. If you enjoy seaweed salads, you won’t find anything better than this one.
- Fried egg – Fried eggs are a great addition to almost any meal because they provide a nice balance between protein and carbohydrates. They also contain many essential nutrients, including selenium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, lysine, arginine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, folate, biotin, choline, and vitamin D.
- Meatball – Meatballs are usually cooked over medium-high heat until browned on the outside and juicy inside. When combined with pasta, they become a tasty alternative to rice or bread. Make sure to cook them long enough so that they aren’t overdone, though!
- Vegetables – Vegetables are always good choices for dinner, especially ones that pack a lot of nutrition into small packages.
If you don’t see something listed above that sounds appealing, check out our list of 50+ amazing vegetable ideas!
How Do You Store Curry Udon?
As we mentioned earlier, there are two different types of curry udon out there in Japan today.
The first version originates from Osaka and Nagasaki, while the second came from Kyoto.
While both are very similar to each other, they come from completely different regions.
The Nagasaki-style curry udon comes from the city’s old port area, where rice was shipped in barrels from China until 1869.
So when people would go on trips, there was always plenty of food available since most of their supplies had just arrived.
On top of that, local residents enjoyed eating a lot of fish, including eel, mackerel, and squid.
These fresh foods, along with dried bonito flakes, made up the bulk of the Nagasaki style curry udon recipe, which included vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, and potatoes.
Meanwhile, the Kyoto version of curry udon originated in the mid 1800s, and its broth contained more meat than the Nagasaki variety.
It also used less water, resulting in a thicker consistency.
However, instead of using vegetables, the Kyoto version relied heavily on soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and chili powder.
So if you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner, look no further than these three varieties of curry udon!
What Are Some Tips For Making The Perfect Curry Udon?
When preparing curry udon, start with your broth.
It should be made from scratch using water (not stock), and salt.
If you don’t have access to water, feel free to substitute it with rice wine vinegar.
The reason why we say to use fresh water here, instead of just plain tap water, is because the flavor will come out stronger when using fresh water.
Next up is the soy sauce.
This is where most people go wrong.
They buy cheap soy sauce, and add too much.
Instead, look for high quality soy sauce.
There’s nothing worse than having a bland tasting dish after following a good curry udon recipe.
Another thing to consider is what kind of noodles you want to use.
Most of the time, people choose ramen noodles due to their thickness and ability to hold up well in soups.
However, if you prefer thinner noodles, try making them yourself! Just follow these instructions on how to make homemade pasta.
With all those components taken care of, now comes the fun part: cooking! Here are some pointers for making the best curry udon ever:
- Use a heavy bottomed pot for better heat distribution.
- Cook over medium-high heat until the oil starts to bubble.
- Add the onion first, followed by the garlic, ginger, and scallions.
- Once everything’s cooked through, add the mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage, tofu, and eggplant.
- Stir occasionally while simmering.
- After about 15 minutes, taste the broth. Add more soy sauce if necessary.
- If the broth tastes good, you’re done! Serve immediately.
- The pot
For the Udon
- Kosher salt
- 1½ pounds fresh udon noodles
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
- 3 medium carrots
- 6 cups vegetarian dashi
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
For the Curry Roux
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Japanese curry powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne
- After the udon has cooked for about 2 minutes in a big pot of salted water, gently separate the noodles from their compact bundle using wooden chopsticks or tongs. While preparing the other ingredients, drain, rinse with cold water, and then leave to continue draining. When cooking the curry broth, keep the pot outside. (Rinse is unnecessary.)
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat while preparing the curry roux. The butter should be added and let to fully melt. Blend in the flour after adding it. Cook the roux, constantly whisking, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the color of light caramel. Stir in the cayenne pepper powder, garam masala, and curry powder. Turn off the heat and leave the pot alone.
- Add the neutral oil to the big saucepan from Step 1 and heat it up over medium-high heat. Adding the onion, stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant and just beginning to soften. Stir in the potatoes and carrots. Stirring is required after adding the dashi or stock, soy sauce or tamari, sugar, and half a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, cover the pan, and simmer the vegetables for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are barely tender.
- When the veggies are ready, add the curry roux and stir until the broth thickens (if using pre-made curry bricks, add them now; refer to the instructions on the package to decide how many bricks to add). It should resemble a thick soup broth in texture.
- Add the udon to the broth, along with the spinach. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the noodles are just warmed through and the spinach is just wilted.
- Divide the noodles and broth equally among four serving bowls, and eat immediately.