For most people, noodles are nothing but a snack they can pop anytime, cook, and serve hot in a few minutes. But if you’re talking about Asian noodles, you might want to be specific, given the broad range of noodles existing today. From rice noodles to glass noodles, egg noodles, starch noodles, and buckwheat noodles – the options are numerous, and so are the ways to use them.
According to Hetty McKinnon, a famous cookbook author, “The world of noodles is its own world.” His book, “To Asia, With Love,” has even dedicated an entire chapter to noodles. Andrea Nguyen, another cookbook author, partly ascribes the diversity of Asian noodles to regional dishes and local tastes.
The situation isn’t any different for those with a special interest in Japanese cuisine. There are several Japanese noodle varieties, and telling them apart might not be as straightforward. However, in this article, we look to focus on two types of Japanese noodles: somen and ramen. Let’s get started!
What are Somen Noodles?
Somen noodles are a thin Japanese noodle variant made of wheat flour, typically known for their delicate texture and mild flavor. You can eat them cold with tsuyu, a soy-based dipping sauce, or rather hot in a broth or soup.
Usually, the hot version is preferred in the winter, and the cold version in the summer.
These noodles are also distinguished by their versatility and fine diameter. From hot soups to cold dishes and salads – expect somen noodles to fit. And owing to their relatively short cooking time – roughly two minutes or less – somen noodles make an excellent fast dish.
Cooking Cold Somen Noodles
Here are the ingredients required to cook somen noodles:
- Dries somen noodles
- Mentsuyu, the noodle soup base. It may either be homemade or store-bought
- Grated ginger for garnish
- Garnishes, such as garlic, chopped scallions, and chopped green onion.
- Your preferred choice of toppings
1. Boil water in a large pot. It is not necessary to salt the water. However, use enough water, so it keeps boiling when adding your somen noodles.
2. Cook the noodles as directed by the package, often for 1-2 minutes. Some people prefer slightly undercooking them. Use chopsticks to stir the noodles as they cook to avoid sticking.
3. Once the noodles are done, pour them into a colander and gently knead them with your hands as you wash them under cool running water to get rid of the excess oil.
4. Serve with tsuyu, along with other optional toppings and garnishes.
Alternatively, you may toss the cooked noodles in a hot broth, typically an umami-flavored concoction traditionally prepared by boiling ponzu, a Japanese seaweed, with dried bonito flakes. Moreover, you may also add them to stir-frys and salads or serve them as a side to grilled meats like ham, shrimp, chicken, or beef.
Somen Noodle Recipe Ideas
This delicious vegan Somen Noodles in Creamy Sesame Miso Soup can be made with pantry and fridge staples like miso, tahini, and peanut butter. This warm somen noodle recipe is super easy to follow but tastes like you’ve put some effort into it.
This somen noodle recipe idea is quick and easy and all you need to make this soba noodle dipping Sauce is three simple ingredients, dashi stock, soy sauce, and mirin. A great lunch option because it is fast, healthy, and delicious.
What are Ramen Noodles?
Ramen noodles originated in China and have since evolved into a popular cheap snack for students and a quick dish for many people worldwide. They are made of wheat and kansui powder and have long been used in soups.
Ramen noodles make an absolute highlight for quick and easy recipes. Some ramen soups, nonetheless, are quite elaborate, requiring that the broth be simmered for a couple of days in advance and the meat meticulously prepped.
Like somen, you can use various toppings to ensure your ramen recipes are flavorful. Ramen can be purchased fresh or prepared at home; otherwise, the noodles are sold either as an instant version, dried, or pre-cooked.
However, the packaged type accessible in the West has little similarity to the authentic version, and the dry soup stock has high levels of chemicals and sodium.
How to Cook Ramen Noodles
To cook ramen noodles, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Dried ramen noodles
- Ramen noodle soup base
- Your garnishes and toppings.
Good options include mushrooms, butter, pickled ginger, tofu, scallions, American cheese, frozen veggies, and more.
Cooking ramen noodles is nearly similar to somen noodles – the only difference is the soup base.
- Boil water in a pot
- Add the dried noodles to the water and simmer for roughly 3 minutes while stirring at intervals.
- Add two tablespoons of ramen soup base and mix well.
- Once done, serve in a bowl and add your preferred garnishes.
Ramen Noodle Recipe Ideas
Such an easy ramen noodle recipe to make, simply when cooked, toss in soy sauce, sriracha, and lots of toasted sesame seeds.
Chicken is the perfect pair for Ramen noodles. Its light natural flavor does not overpower and makes for a perfect combination. A great sub-30 min meal idea that can be loaded full of seasoning, veggies, and spice to give your mouth a healthy protein kick.
Key Differences Between Ramen and Somen
Both somen and ramen are great Japanese wheat noodle dishes. And while some may confuse the two, they differ in flavor, preparation, and serving.
Somen noodles are classic noodles made from wheat flour, salt, and water. Ramen noodles, on the contrary, are made from wheat flour, kansui (alkaline mineral water containing “soda ash”), water, and salt.
Ramen noodles are readily available in noodle shops and can be freshly simmered in broth, often featuring fish or meat-based products. Meanwhile, somen noodles are more prevalent in restaurants and are usually served cold alongside various dipping sauces such as dashi and soy sauce, although some people also eat the noodles in hot soup.
Regarding texture, ramen noodles boast a thicker consistency and are chewier than somen noodles, which sees them effectively absorb the various flavors added to the broth
Ramen vs Somen: Final Take
Somen and ramen are great noodle varieties you can count on for an easy, quick meal. However, as seen in this post, each has its unique uses and traits. Somen, for one, is best served cold with varying dipping sauces, with ramen typically used to make the famous ramen soup, among other differences.
So, which is better? We’ll let you find that out yourself as the opinion on which outdoes the other depends on personal taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are instant ramen noodles healthy?
Although they offer B vitamins, iron, and manganese, ramen noodles are low in protein, fiber, and other vital minerals. Moreover, they also feature high sodium, TBHQ, and MSG contents, which are far from healthy.
Therefore, it might be best to limit your consumption by occasionally eating ramen noodles rather than regularly.
Are somen noodles different from soba noodles?
Yes. Somen noodles are mild in flavor and pale white, compared to soba noodles, which have a nutty flavor and are light brown. The two also differ in consistency, with soba noodles being slightly thicker.
Where can you buy somen noodles?
Somen noodles are available at Asian food stores or Japanese grocery stores. They may also be available online or at the supermarkets’ Asian food sections.
What can you use in place of ramen noodles?
Ramen noodles are readily available at Asian markets and practically any food store. But suppose you can’t come across any; there are other types of noodles to consider, including rice noodles, yakisoba noodles, somen noodles, kishimen noodles, shirataki noodles, and Italian vermicelli.
Are ramen noodles similar to udon noodles?
Not quite. The most visible distinction between ramen and udon noodles is that udon noodles are thicker, with an average thickness of roughly 3 – 4.5 millimeters compared to 1.5 millimeters for ramen.