Tempura Udon is a popular Japanese noodle soup with thick wheat noodles. It is topped with crunchy prawn tempura, fish cake and chopped shallots/scallions. Dashi-based broth has saltiness and a hint of sweetness that goes so well with tempura.
I can’t believe I haven’t posted Tempura Udon before now! I was focussing on ramen so much that I forgot one of the most traditional noodle dishes, udon noodle soup.
I posted 6 ramen recipes – Easy Japanese Ramen Noodles, Home-made Ramen Broth Recipe, Home-made Miso Ramen, Home-made Shio Ramen, Okinawa Soba (Sōki Soba), Hiyashi Chūka (Cold Ramen). But I only posted one udon noodle recipe, Curry Udon (Udon Noodles with Curry Flavoured Broth). It’s about time!
Udon vs Soba
Udon is made from flour and water with a small amount of salt. The noodles must have a minimum thickness of 1.7mm/1/16″ in diameter. Noodles thinner than that are called hiyamugi or Sōmen. I talked more about Udon in my post Curry Udon (Udon Noodle with Curry Flavoured Broth) with sample photos of udon noodles.
Udon is often compared to Soba. It’s because they are both noodles and cooked in the same way in many different noodle dishes. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and the appearance of soba is quite different from that of udon. However, the noodles in the most noodle dishes are interchangeable.
For example, Tempura Udon can become tempura soba by replacing udon noodles with soba. My Curry Udon (Udon Noodle with Curry Flavoured Broth) can become curry soba if you use soba instead.
In Japan, people are often segregated into their noodle preferences – udon or soba. There are even Twitter groups called Udon party and Soba party where all they talk about is the respective noodles with photos of noodle dishes.
I prefer soba in general, but in certain dishes, I prefer udon noodles. I like Curry Udo better than curry soba. But I think soba is the best of all the different kinds of noodles when chilled and eaten just as they are.
Which party do you belong to?
Tempura Udon Toppings
My Tempura Udon is made with two large prawn tempura pieces as one of the toppings. This, I believe, is the most traditional Tempura Udon because when I was young Tempura Udon always came with prawn tempura.
But these days, you can call it Tempura Udon as long as the main toppings are tempura (and they don’t have to be prawns). Instead of prawn tempura, you can use Kakiage (Mixed Vegetable Tempura) as a topping. You can see Kakiage as a topping in the photo below. This is actually a Tempura Soba as I used soba noodles.
Serving Tempura for Tempura Udon
I placed the prawn tempura pieces on the noodle soup. This is a rather controversial matter in the Maehashi family.
My son says that tempura should not be placed on top of the noodle soup because it loses the crunchiness of the tempura batter.
I say it should be on top because that’s how the traditional Tempura Udon/Saba is served. And the soaked tempura batter is quite tasty in my view.
Perhaps because some diners are just like my son, some noodle shops in Japan serve tempura on a separate plate with a bowl of udon noodle soup.
Frozen Prawn Tempura for Tempura Udon
I cheated a bit in my Tempura Udon today. I did not make prawn tempura from scratch and used frozen tempura. You can buy a bag of frozen tempura at Japanese (possibly Asian too) grocery stores.
They are perfectly battered and ready to be reheated in the oven to make them crunchy on the outside. Here is my frozen tempura. They are neatly placed on a tray without touching each other to maintain the delicate shape of the prawn tempura.
All you need to do is to place the tempura pieces on a rack in a tray and heat them at 150-160C/302-320F for 10 minutes. The frozen prawn tempura keeps quite a while in the freezer and I find it very convenient when I want to use only few prawn tempura pieces for the noodles.
If you make tempura for dinner, then by all means, cook extra for Tempura Udon and freeze them.
I talked about other kinds of tempura that can be the topping for Tempura Udon. But when prawn tempura pieces are the main toppings, it is quite common to add a few slices of kamaboko and finely chopped shallots/scallions.
Kamaboko (かまぼこ or 蒲鉾) is a steamed fish paste and it usually comes in a semi-cylinder shape on a wooden plank that is wrapped in a plastic. They come in white as well as a pink-skinned one which is often used to add colour to the dish.
They are sold in the frozen section of Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
Slice the kamaboko on a plank as you need, then starting from the edge of the plank, run the knife between the kamaboko and the plank up to the point where the slices end. Then you can remove the kamaboko slices while the rest of the kamaboko is still attached to the plank.
Tempura Udon Broth
My broth is made of dashi stock, light soy sauce and mirin. To the 300ml/10oz of dashi stock, I add 1½ tablespoons of light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of mirin.
The ratio of dashi stock and soy sauce/mirin varies household by household. Sometimes, less mirin is used and sugar is added to compensate the sweetness. Instead of light soy sauce, normal soy sauce might be used. Some recipes add a tiny amount of salt and reduce the amount of soy sauce.
But in general, the broth is made of dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin with or without sugar/salt.
There is a notable difference in the colour and flavour of the udon noodle broth between Kansai (the western region of Japan) and Kantō (the eastern region of Japan).
The broth in Kansai has a lighter colour compared to Kantō. The difference of the colour comes from the type of soy sauce used in each region – light soy sauce vs normal soy sauce respectively.
The dashi stock is also made differently. Kansai dashi stock is made from kelp while in Kantō, bonito flakes are used to make dashi stock.
My dashi stock is made from bonito flakes but I used light soy sauce. So, I guess my broth is a hybrid.
Hot udon noodle soups are almost always accompanied by a little bottle of shichimi tōgarashi (七味唐辛子), Japanese spice mixture with chilli) or simply called shichimi (七味). Just sprinkle shichimi over the noodle soup to give a little accent to the soup.
Hot soba noodle soups also come with shichimi. See, I told you soba and udon noodle dishes are interchangeable. Here is a bottle of shichimi tōgarashi and the bowl of Tempura Udon sprinkled with shichimi.
It is so easy to make Tempura Udon when you use frozen prawn tempura. I hope you try it.
Tempura Udon is a popular Japanese noodle soup with thick wheat noodles and crunchy prawn tempura, fish cake and chopped shallots/scallions. The dashi-based broth has saltiness and a hint of sweetness that goes so well with tempura.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 60g/2.1oz dried udon noodles (note 1)
- 2 frozen prawn tempura (note 2)
- 2 slices kamaboko (steamed fish cakes, note 3)
- 2 tbsp shallots , finely chopped
- Shichimi tōgarashi (note 6)
Preheat oven to 150-160C/302-320F.
Place frozen prawn tempura on a rack in a small tray and reheat in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave them in the oven until required.
Bring sufficient water in a pot to a boil. Add the dried udon noodles to the pot. Mix for about 15 seconds ensuring that each strand is separated.
Boil for the duration recommended on the back of the pack. My udon needed 10 minutes to cook through.
Drain into colander and rinse well under running water. Shake the colander well to remove water at the bottom of the colander and leave until required.
Put the Broth ingredients in a new pot and bring it to a boil.
Place udon noodles in a serving bowl, and pour the broth over the udon noodles (note 7).
Place the prawn tempura, sliced kamaboko and chopped shallots/scallions on top. Serve immediately with shichimi tōgarashi if using.
1. The weight of my boiled udon noodles was about 160g/5.6oz. Depending on the softness of the cooked udon noodles, the weight of cooked udon varies.
You can buy a packet of pre-cooked udon if you prefer. I normally don’t use them as I like my udon to be al-dente and pre-cooked udon tends to be too soft for my liking.
If you have access to a freshly made udon, you are lucky and you should us it by all means. They need less time to boil.
2. You can of course freshly cook tempura. Please see the post Tempura for how to cook prawn tempura.
3. Kamaboko (かまぼこ or 蒲鉾) is a steamed fish cake and usually comes in a semi-cylinder shape on a wooden plank that is wrapped in plastic. They come in white as well as pink-skinned, which I used today. (see the post for details).
They are sold in the frozen section of Japanese/Asian grocery stores.
Slice the kamaboko on the plank as you need, then starting from the edge of the plank, run the knife between the kamaboko and the plank up to the point where the slices ends. Remove the kamaboko slices.
4. If you are using granular dashi powder or a dashi pack, check if it contains salt. If it does, reduce amount of soy sauce.
5. I used light soy sauce to maintain the light colour of the broth. You can use normal soy sauce if you don’t have light soy sauce.
6. Shichimi tōgarashi (七味唐辛子) is a Japanese spice mixture with chilli.
7. Even if udon is cold, the soup retains a quite high temperature. But if you prefer super-hot udon noodle soup, you can add the noodles to the broth, bring it to a boil, then transfer to the serving bowl.