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.
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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.
I like to use frozen udon for the best texture, but if you can't find them, these Hakubaku Gakuo Dry Udon are also good.
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!
What is "Zaru Udon"?
Zaru udon is a cold summery dish consisting of chilled udon noodles served with a cold dipping sauce called "mentsuyu".
What is Tenzaru Udon?
When zaru udon is served with tempura, it becomes "Tenzaru Udon".
How do you eat Zaru 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.
What is the sauce that is served with Zaru Udon?
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.
When is Zaru Udon eaten?
Japanese people commonly enjoy zaru udon or zaru soba in summer, it's a light, cold and refreshing dish!
Zaru Udon (Chilled Udon with Homemade Mentsuyu Dipping Sauce)
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 portions
How to make refreshing and delicious Zaru Udon (ざるうどん) with a homemade mentsuyu dipping sauce.
- 100ml Awase Dashi (kelp and bonito flake stock)
- 20ml Soy sauce (4 tsp)
- 20ml Mirin (4 tsp)
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 Dried shiitake mushroom
- 2 portions Udon noodles
- ¼ sheet Nori (optional)
- 1 tsp Wasabi
- 1 tsp Ginger grated
- 2 tbsp Tenkasu (tempura batter crumbs)
- 2 tbsp Spring onion finely chopped
- Take a small pan and add 100ml of awase dashi, 20ml of soy sauce and 20ml of mirin.
- Turn the heat on medium and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute to burn the alcohol off the mirin.
- Add 1 tsp of sugar to the pan and mix until it's dissolved into the liquid.
- Take the pan off the heat, pour the dipping sauce into a heatproof jug and add 1 dried shiitake mushroom.
- Place the jug in a bowl of ice to cool it quickly. The mentsuyu is complete.
- Cook your udon noodles according the the instructions on the packaging.
- Once it's cooked, pour the udon into a strainer to drain the water away. Rinse the noodles under cold running water. Add a few ice cubes to the udon to make it extra cold.
- Take ¼ a sheet of nori and cut it into thin strips.
- Take two small plates and to each one, add ½ tsp wasabi, ½ tsp grated ginger, 1 tbsp tenkasu and 1 tbsp chopped spring onion.
- Place each serving of udon on a "zaru" and sprinkle with nori. (You can use a bamboo sushi mat on a plate if you don't have a zaru.)
- Pour your dipping sauce into 2 cups.
- Each serving should have a portion of udon, a cup of cold mentsuyu dipping sauce and a small plate of ingredients to flavour the sauce.
- Enjoy on its own or with light and crispy tempura!
You can use this recipe to make zaru soba, just replace the udon noodles with soba noodles.
If you're doubling or tripling the recipe, the mentsuyu will take longer to cool.
You can keep left over mentsuyu in the fridge for about 1 month so I recommend making extra if you plan to make zaru udon or zaru soba often during the summer!
If you want to make it vegan, you can use my vegan awase dashi recipe.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cooling Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Noodles
- Method: Boiling
- Cuisine: Japanese
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