There are a variety of Japanese noodles, but two of the most popular are Udon and Ramen. More often than not, it is easy to confuse one noodle for the other even though they are distinct in a number of ways, including the ingredients used, preparation differences, and taste.
Everything You Need to Know About Udon Noodles
Lighter in color, thicker in size, and prepared in a variety of ways (hot and cold), Udon is an old noodle that has thrived in Japan for centuries on end. Udon noodles’ neutral flavor allows the noodles to serve as an excellent choice for more flavor-heavy dishes such as Seafood Tomato Cream Udon, Curry Beef Udon, and others in which a rich broth provides the base for the noodles.
In the Gunman Prefecture of Japan, a chilled Udon dish can be found that is usually handmade from local wheat flour and water that comes from Mount Mizusawa. However, just a little over 400 miles south of Gunma is the Kagawa Prefecture, which is where some incredibly wholesome Sanuki Udon is made to have a firm, chewy texture and available in many hot and chilled dishes such as Kake Udon, Bukake Udon, Kamatama Udon, and Kitsune Udon.
Although the preparation and taste of Udon varies from region to region in Japan, by far the most popular of them all is Sanuki Udon, which is now recreated in all its authentic and recently brought to the United States via Café Sanuki in Las Vegas.
Everything You Need to Know About Ramen Noodles
More golden yellow, thinner in the body, and often served in hot broth, Ramen noodles are notably smaller in size and shape when compared to Udon noodles. The texture of Ramen noodles can also vary from heavy in water in its dough (and therefore softer in texture) to having less water in its composition and thus comes out as a former firmer, thinner noodle and is often topped with ingredients such as butter, corn, egg, or bamboo shoots.
A favorite quick dish favored throughout Asia, Ramen is a noodle that has been evolving in Japan for just over 100 years and cooked just enough to have a more pulled, chewy texture that can go great with most any broth. Ramen can vary in taste among different regions in Japan. For example, Tonkotsu Ramen is a type of dish that contains pork bone marrow and hails from the Fukuoka Prefecture of Japan’s Kyushu Island. Just 700 miles northeast of Fukuoka in Tokyo, Japan, one of the more popular Ramen dishes there is Shoyu Ramen, which mainly consists of a soy sauce broth with chicken or vegetable stock.
One of the most popular and flourishing types of Ramen can found in the low-cost, high-volume instant Ramen noodle packages that mainly contain little more than a portion of pre-cooked noodles, instructions to add hot water, and a seasoning packet that can come in a variety of flavors.
What’s the Difference Between Udon vs. Ramen?
The three most obvious distinctions include:
Ramen noodles consist of water, flour, and an alkalized water known as Kansui, which serves as a critical ingredient that contributes to the Ramen’s overall texture. Udon, on the other hand, does not utilize Kansui in its base preparation—opting for Dashi broth instead—and therefore has a different taste to Ramen.
Ramen is almost always served hot whereas Udon can come either hot or cold.
Size and Shape
Ramen is typically colored yellow and bears a thin body. In contrast, Udon is a much thicker noodle that comes in lighter shades of white based on its flour.
Is Udon or Ramen Healthier?
Generally speaking, Udon and Ramen do share fundamental truths for being noodles that you can cook at home, enjoy in a restaurant, or consume as an instant noodle right off the shelf. The question of which noodle is the healthier one is mainly dependent on how each noodle gets prepared.
For example, a packet of instant Ramen noodles could contain an excessive amount of sodium in its ingredients list. Whereas homemade Ramen or those found in a restaurant would likely contain fresher ingredients that would reduce its sodium content.
On the other hand, Udon dishes made with fresh, MSG-free ingredients would notably stand out as a healthier option. If anything, it’s always best to consider where the source of your next Udon or Ramen dish comes from (your home kitchen, favorite restaurant, or local store shelf) before deciding which one is the healthier option overall.
To provide some context to this, below is a side-by-side comparison of nutritional facts pulled from one specific Ramen dish and one Udon dish.
- The dish contains 242 grams of sodium.
- Its main vegetable is green onions.
- Made from boiled pork bone broth, likely based on processed meat with preservatives.
Pork Shabu Udon
- The dish contains 160 grams of sodium.
- The broth comes from on an all-natural Dashi stock made of dried kelp and a variety of fish.
- Its vegetables include spring salad greens with cherry tomatoes, cabbage, and onions.
- The dish features thin slices of Danish pork, known for being antibiotic-free.
Based on the above, our analysis suggests that Udon stands out as healthier than Ramen. This analysis is based on how the Udon contains less sodium than Ramen, is made with fresher ingredients, and also has zero MSG, which is a bonus for any heart-healthy eaters.
Udon vs. Ramen Calories
Ramen noodle calories can vary from the low 200s to 600 or higher based on what type of broth, toppings, and quality of the ingredients that go into each dish. Udon, on the other hand, could contain fewer than 200 calories or less based on freshly prepared it is with wholesome ingredients (such as organic eggs, unrefined flour, and MSG-free items).
If you are inclined to enjoy authentic Udon of the healthiest and highest quality available, try checking out the Udon experts at Café Sanuki in Las Vegas. Opened in November 2017, Cafe Sanuki is a brand new Udon noodle restaurant that prides itself for using wholesome, MSG-free organic ingredients to create very healthy Udon dishes that genuinely provide a healthier, happier alternative to noodle dishes of other types.