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Jan 26, 2023

HOW TOGlobal Flavor Fusion: Which International Cuisines Match Udon the Best?

Udon noodles have gone global, and everywhere they are enjoyed, consumers are giving them a local twist. Find out what makes udon so versatile and some of the most interesting international flavor combinations.

Jan 26, 2023

Udon, Japan’s versatile noodle

Insatiably chewy, gloriously moreish and undeniably iconic, udon noodles are a firm favorite in Japan. A deceptively simple combination of water, wheat flour and salt, the secret of udon is in the preparation – and chefs in Japan have been preparing udon for well over 1,000 years.

In Japan, udon noodles can be paired with a huge variety of broths, vegetables and miso, stir-fried, used to finish a great hot pot meal and more. They are remarkably versatile and can be enjoyed as a quick lunch, hearty comfort food or a carefully prepared dining experience. As a result, the humble udon has gone global, with consumers worldwide tweaking recipes to incorporate this irresistible noodle.

A global phenomenon: How udon became a worldwide comfort food

It’s not surprising that udon has become a worldwide success story – its origins are international. The recipe for udon originated in China and spread along the Silk Road and after arriving in Italy, became pasta, perhaps the most famous Italian culinary export.

However, udon itself became a worldwide phenomenon after it was introduced to the world by Yasuo Takahashi at the 1970 Osaka Expo. The dish was a resounding success, and today, udon restaurants serving the noodles in a traditional style have opened up worldwide.

India vs. Italy, which international cuisine is the perfect udon pairing?

Today, creative udon chefs around the world are experimenting by combining local flavors with this most cherished of Japanese comfort foods. In Japan, Indian-inspired curried udon is a national specialty using South Asian spices. But the incorporation of Indian flavors in udon has gone beyond just curried udon – it has also blended with other authentic Asian flavors, resulting in fusion dishes like Indian or Indonesian style udon with sambal and stir-fried udon.

Another cuisine that has embraced udon, likely due to the historical ties mentioned earlier, is Italian. Replacing spaghetti for udon is a natural choice for diners keen to try something different with a pasta recipe. Udon carbonara is luscious and smoky, while a simple basil and tomato sauce elevates udon further when it absorbs these iconic Italian flavors.

Get creative with udon flavor combinations

With udon, the potential taste combinations are endless. While Italian and Asian creations are well-celebrated, there is no end to the other flavor combinations you can try. Chinese sweet and sour and other sticky, sweet recipes are particularly delicious with udon. With udon, you’re only limited by your imagination. 

US-style barbecued meats pair perfectly with silky udon, while further south of the border, Mexican beef chili is a delicious spicy topping  for a plate of noodles. Some of the most adventurous diners might even try a udon dessert: chocolate sauce, warm noodles and fresh cream – perhaps with a sprinkling of hazelnuts?