When the weather is too hot for a steaming bowl of soupy noodles, zaru udon is the perfect alternative! Chilled udon noodles served with a delicious homemade mentsuyu dipping sauce, this dish is a staple in Japan during the summer! It's quick to make and commonly enjoyed with tempura.
What is Zaru Udon?
Zaru udon (ざるうどん) is a popular Japanese summer dish consisting of cold udon noodles served with a refreshing mentsuyu dipping sauce.
The word "zaru" is a type of flat bamboo straining tray. You'll often see cold udon or soba noodles served on a "zaru" in Japan, it allows the excess water to drain off of the noodles. I don't expect many people outside Japan have a zaru at home, so you can also serve your noodles on a bamboo sushi mat placed on top of a bowl or plate as an alternative option.
Zaru udon can be enjoyed on its own, but it's also commonly served with tempura vegetables or seafood. Tempura is a light and crispy deep fried dish that goes perfectly with udon and soba noodles.
If you eat tempura and zaru udon together, it becomes "tenzaru udon"(天ざるうどん). You can check out how to make tempura on my tempura soba post here!
Zaru udon and zaru soba are served with a dipping sauce called "mentsuyu". You can easily buy a bottle of mentsuyu in Japanese supermarkets, but it's also easy to make at home!
Mentsuyu is made mainly with dashi and soy sauce, then sweetened with mirin and sugar. I use "awase dashi" which is a Japanese stock made with kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). You can use dashi bags, instant dashi or make it yourself with my homemade awase dashi recipe here! (If you don't eat meat or fish, check out this recipe for vegan awase dashi.)
I also add a dried shiitake mushroom to my mentsuyu for extra umami.
The sauce is heated in a pan to cook the alcohol off the mirin but the mentsuyu should be served cold. You can let it cool at room temperature, but I'm impatient so I usually transfer it to a heatproof jug and then place it in a bowl of ice. If you use this method it should be cold enough in about 10-15 minutes.
Udon noodles are a type of thick, chewy Japanese noodle made with wheat flour. They are also very versatile, I have many udon recipes on my website, check them out if you're like me and love udon!
- Yaki Udon - stir fried udon
- Curry Udon - udon in a curry soup
- Niku Udon - udon in a meaty beef broth
- Shabu shabu udon salad - udon in a refreshing salad with shabu shabu pork and sesame dressing
Although I used udon noodles in this recipe, another dish called "Zaru Soba" (ざるそば) is actually more popular than zaru udon.
It's just my personal preference, I love udon noodles and always have some in my cupboard or freezer. But of course, you can use this same recipe and enjoy it with soba noodles instead.
How to eat Zaru Udon
When zaru udon is served, each person has their own "zaru" tray with chilled udon noodles served next to a cup of mentsuyu dipping sauce and a small plate of extra ingredients that you can use to flavour your sauce.
The small plate will often have wasabi, grated ginger and spring onions. Other options include sesame seeds, tenkasu (pieces of tempura crumbs), grated daikon radish and even sudachi (a type of Japanese citrus) for a sour kick! Because you have your own personal cup of mentsuyu dipping sauce, you can add as much or as little as you like!
First, mix the extra ingredients to your dipping sauce to your liking. Using chopsticks, lift the udon noodles and place them briefly into the sauce. Finally, lift them out, eat and enjoy!
Zaru udon is a cold summery dish consisting of chilled udon noodles served with a cold dipping sauce called "mentsuyu".
When zaru udon is served with tempura, it becomes "Tenzaru Udon".
Zaru Udon usually comes with a plate of udon noodles, a cup of dipping sauce and a plate of extra ingredients to flavour the sauce. First, you mix the ingredients into the sauce to your liking, then you dip the udon into the sauce briefly before eating.
A Japanese noodle dipping sauce called "mentsuyu" is served with zaru udon or zaru soba. A basic mentsuyu is made from dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar.
Japanese people commonly enjoy zaru udon or zaru soba in summer, it's a light, cold and refreshing dish!