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Bites of Japan: Kake Udon Noodle Soup

11/09/2023 3:00 PM

Kake udon is a classic Japanese noodle soup. This article dives into its history, why it's special in Japanese culture, and how it's made. From its beginnings in the Edo period to its place in movies and books, learn about the ingredients and different ways people enjoy this comforting dish.
steaming bowl of kake udon, highlighting the clear broth, chewy udon noodles, and freshly chopped green onions


Kake udon, a traditional Japanese noodle dish, embodies the essence of simplicity in Japanese cuisine. It is a beloved comfort food that has been enjoyed by generations of Japanese families. Kake udon plays an essential role in Japanese food culture, highlighting the importance of quality ingredients and traditional preparation methods.

The dish consists of wheat noodles served in a hot, savory dashi broth, topped with sliced green onions. Kake udon's flavor profile is known for its rich umami taste and is commonly enjoyed during colder months.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kake udon is a traditional Japanese dish that embodies simplicity and comfort in Japanese cuisine.
  • The dish consists of udon noodles served in a hot dashi broth and topped with sliced green onions.
  • Kake udon is a staple in Japanese food culture, emphasizing the importance of quality ingredients and traditional preparation methods.

What is Kake Udon?

Kake udon is a traditional Japanese noodle soup made with thick, chewy udon noodles served in a savory dashi broth, often garnished with sliced green onions, embodying the simplicity and comfort of Japanese cuisine.

A Brief History of Kake Udon

old Japanese painting depicting people from the Edo period enjoying bowls of kake udon in a traditional setting

Kake udon is a traditional Japanese dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. It is believed to have originated in the Kansai region of Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868) and has since become a staple in Japanese cuisine. Kake udon is a simple yet delicious dish that exemplifies the essence of authentic Japanese cuisine.

The dish consists of thick wheat noodles called udon, served in a hot dashi broth made from kombu (dried kelp) and bonito flakes (dried fish flakes). The broth is seasoned with soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine) to enhance its umami flavor. Kake udon is often garnished with chopped scallions and can be enjoyed at any time of day, making it a popular comfort food in Japan.

The popularity of kake udon has grown over time, with many variations of the dish emerging throughout Japan. In certain regions, such as Osaka and Hiroshima, kake udon is served with a raw egg cracked over the hot noodles, creating a creamy texture and boosting the dish's nutritional value.

The Cultural Significance of Kake Udon

Kake udon holds a special place in Japanese food culture, symbolizing simplicity and authenticity. The dish is often associated with traditional Japanese values, such as humility and appreciation for natural ingredients. Its popularity as a comfort food also highlights the importance of finding joy in simplicity and taking pleasure in life's small pleasures.

Moreover, kake udon has made appearances in various aspects of Japanese culture, including literature and film. It is frequently mentioned in Japanese literature, such as the works of Haruki Murakami, as a symbol of everyday life and comfort. In the popular film "Tampopo," the main character strives to perfect the art of making kake udon, showcasing the dish's cultural significance and its role in preserving Japanese culinary traditions.

The Ingredients of Kake Udon

kake udon ingredients- fresh udon noodles, a bowl of dashi broth, kombu seaweed, bonito flakes, soy sauce, and mirin

Kake udon is a simple yet delicious dish consisting of just a few key ingredients that come together to create a flavorful and satisfying meal. Here are the main ingredients that make up this classic Japanese soup:

Ingredient Description
Udon Noodles A type of thick, wheat noodle that is the foundation of the dish. These noodles provide a chewy texture that pairs perfectly with the savory broth.
Dashi Broth A simple, clear broth made from kombu (dried kelp) and bonito flakes (dried fish), that serves as the soup base for kake udon. The subtle umami flavor of dashi broth is what makes this dish so delicious.

While these are the main ingredients of kake udon, there are variations of the dish that incorporate additional toppings and garnishes such as chopped scallions, tempura flakes, or fish cakes. However, it is the simplicity of the base ingredients that truly makes kake udon a comforting and satisfying meal.

The Art of Making Kake Udon

chef's hands skillfully preparing kake udon, with a focus on pouring the hot dashi broth over perfectly cooked udon noodles

Making kake udon is a delicate and intricate process that requires attention and detail. The goal is to create a bowl of udon that is both chewy and tender, with a broth that is rich in umami flavor. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make the perfect bowl of kake udon:

  1. Start by preparing the udon noodles. If using dried noodles, follow the package instructions on how to cook them, making sure to rinse them thoroughly with cold water after cooking to remove excess starch. If using fresh noodles, blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds until they become tender.
  2. Next, prepare the dashi broth. Dashi is a stock made from kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. Soak a 4-inch piece of kombu in water for at least 30 minutes, then bring the water to a simmer. Remove the kombu and add a handful of bonito flakes, stirring gently. Once the bonito flakes sink to the bottom, strain the broth through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
  3. Heat the dashi broth in a pot and season with soy sauce and mirin to taste.
  4. To serve, place the cooked udon noodles in a bowl and pour the hot dashi broth over them.
  5. Finish the dish with thinly sliced scallions and grated ginger.

While the process may seem simple, achieving the perfect texture and flavor requires years of practice and experience. Kake udon is a testament to the dedication of Japanese chefs to their craft and their commitment to preserving the traditions of Japanese cuisine. When served correctly, a bowl of kake udon can transport the diner to the heart of Japanese food culture and showcase the authentic taste of Japan.

Variations of Kake Udon

vibrant display of various kake udon bowls, showcasing different regional toppings and variations, from tempura to raw egg yolk

Kake udon is a beloved traditional Japanese dish that has evolved over time in different regions of Japan, each with its unique twist on the classic dish. Toppings, garnishes, and variations in broth all contribute to the diverse range of kake udon styles.

Regional Variations

One of the most significant variations of kake udon can be found in Kagawa Prefecture, where the dish is known as Sanuki udon. The noodles used in Sanuki udon are thinner than the typical udon noodles, which gives the dish a unique texture. A popular variation in the Hiroshima region is a style called tsukimi udon, which includes an egg yolk on top of the noodles to represent the moon.

Seasonal Variations

Kake udon can also vary depending on the season. In the summer, it is not uncommon to see kake udon served cold with refreshing toppings such as cucumber and seaweed. In the winter, it is common to add warming ingredients such as ginger and shiitake mushrooms to the broth.

Other Variations

Some variations of kake udon include adding tempura to the dish, creating a tempura udon dish. Another popular variation is kitsune udon which adds sweetened and fried tofu to the top of the noodles.

With so many variations to choose from, kake udon has become a staple in traditional Japanese cuisine that offers a diverse range of flavors and textures.

Kake Udon in Japanese Culture

Kake udon is more than just a bowl of noodles and broth - it is a representation of Japanese food culture and values. In Japan, simplicity is cherished as an essential aspect of daily living, and kake udon embodies this principle with its emphasis on minimalism and clean flavors.

Moreover, kake udon holds a special place in Japanese comfort food, providing warmth and nourishment during cold days or times of stress. Many Japanese people associate the dish with happy memories of their childhood or home cooking.

Given its cultural significance, kake udon has also been featured in various works of literature, art, and film. For example, in the manga and anime series "Naruto," one of the characters, Naruto Uzumaki, is known for his love of kake udon and is often depicted eating it.

Overall, kake udon is not just a dish - it's a symbol of Japanese culinary traditions and a cornerstone of Japanese food culture, embodying values of simplicity, comfort, and authenticity.

Where to Enjoy Kake Udon

If you're looking to experience the authentic taste of kake udon, Japan is the place to be. Many restaurants throughout the country specialize in traditional Japanese dishes and serve this beloved comfort food.

One of the best places to enjoy kake udon is in its birthplace, Sanuki City in Kagawa Prefecture. The area is famous for its udon noodles, and you can find plenty of restaurants serving up delicious variations of kake udon.

Another great spot for kake udon is Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market. This bustling market is home to numerous food vendors, many of which serve up bowls of this popular soup.

If you're not in Japan, don't worry. Many Japanese restaurants around the world offer kake udon on their menus, allowing you to experience the flavors of this authentic Japanese cuisine no matter where you are.


In conclusion, kake udon represents the essence of simplicity in traditional Japanese dishes and is an authentic Japanese cuisine that symbolizes Japanese comfort food culture. This dish has a rich cultural significance and is considered a staple in Japanese food culture. By using high-quality ingredients, such as udon noodles and dashi broth, kake udon delivers a unique umami flavor that embodies the art of simplicity.

Preserving Japanese culinary traditions, kake udon has become a beloved dish that can be enjoyed in various regional and seasonal variations throughout Japan. Whether one seeks traditional Japanese dishes or authentic Japanese cuisine, travelers and food enthusiasts alike can find the best kake udon in Japanese restaurants or during travels to Japan.

Embracing the art of simplicity through a bowl of kake udon is an invitation to indulge in the flavors of Japan and experience a sense of comfort. Kake udon is food for the soul that can be enjoyed by all, and its cultural significance continues to inspire and delight people globally.


What is the difference between kake udon vs other udon dishes?

A: Kake udon is a simple yet traditional Japanese udon noodle soup, while other udon dishes may have varied toppings and flavors, highlighting the harmony between its chewy udon noodles and flavorful dashi soup.

How do you make the broth for the kake udon noodle soup?

A: The broth for kake udon is made using dashi, a Japanese soup stock, combined with simple ingredients like soy sauce and Japanese rice wine, creating a comforting bowl of kake udon with a rich soup base.

A: While kake udon is known for its simple Japanese essence, toppings like tempura, Japanese fish cake, and green onions can be added to enhance the bowl of kake udon and delight the palate.

Can I use frozen udon for the udon noodle recipe, or should I make it from scratch?

A: Both frozen udon noodles and homemade udon can be used in the udon noodle recipe. If using frozen udon, simply boil the udon noodles according to package instructions. However, making udon noodles from scratch offers a unique texture of udon that's chewy and delightful.

A: After mastering the basic kake udon recipe, you can explore udon variations like tempura udon, kitsune udon, tanuki udon, bukkake udon, and su udon. Each variation brings a unique twist to the traditional Japanese noodle soup.

Are there any other noodle recipes in Japanese cuisine that are similar to kake udon?

A: Yes, Japanese cuisine offers a plethora of noodle recipes. While kake udon is a simple Japanese noodle soup with a clear broth, there are other dishes like ramen, soba, and somen that offer different types of noodles and flavorful broths, each representing the rich diversity of Japanese recipes.