A distinct broth and four types of noodles…which combination will be the best?!

Just about every region in Japan has its own noodle dish, and for Okinawa, that’s Okinawa soba, also known as soki soba. As far as noodle dishes go, Okinawa soba is pretty unique, with a light broth made from pork and dashi (bonito broth), noodles made with eggs and wheat, and a topping of super thick chunks of pork belly. It’s a must-have when visiting the tropical island paradise.

When cravings hit and you don’t have an Okinawa soba restaurant nearby, though, the only thing to do is make it yourself, which is what we did the other day. But as we were happily munching away, we began to wonder. Could we use this unique broth with other types of noodles?

Well, there was nothing to do but try, so try we did! We went to the store to pick up some udon (thick noodles made from wheat flour), soba (made from buckwheat flour), somen (extremely thin wheat flour noodles), and chuka-men (Chinese-style noodles made with eggs and wheat) to try with Okinawa soba broth.

In addition to the noodles, we also bought a bottle of Okinawa Soba Dashi made by Sun Foods. According to the official website, this bottle contains 390 grams (14 ounces) of concentrated broth, which is enough for 15-18 servings, and retails for 410 yen (US$3.03).

We poured the right amount for our desired richness into a ramen bowl…

And added some hot water to dilute it. As soon as the hot water began to mix with the concentrate, the delicious smell of katsuo broth filled our nostrils.

The taste was similar to tonkotsu, or pork bone broth, but it also had a very strong dashi flavor, which made it supremely delicious. We liked it so much that we’ve now decided to keep a bottle on hand at all times.

Now that the broth was ready, it was time to test it with different kinds of noodles. Here’s our ranking of the four types of noodles, based on how well they mixed with the Okinawa soba broth.

4. Soba

Japanese buckwheat soba has a very distinct flavor, and as such, it’s very rarely paired with anything but a simple mentsuyu broth, which is made with sake, mirin, soy sauce, and katsuo (dried bonito). Soba noodles tasted pretty good when we tried them with yakisoba sauce, but would they be good in a soup with a different kind of broth?

As soon as we tasted it with the Okinawa soba broth, we knew it wasn’t going to be a great fit. The flavor of the noodles was just too strong; it was like the two things didn’t want anything to do with each other. Not exactly what we’d been hoping for.

3. Somen

Somen are surprisingly versatile noodles, so it was no surprise that this combination was pretty tasty, but whether it was because the noodles were so thin their flavor just kind of melted into the broth, or because the flavor of somen is particularly rich, we found the overall dish to be a bit too salty. We actually thought it might be better to dip the somen into the broth, tsukemen style. Close, but no cigar.

3. Chukamen

This one was so good, we debated for a long time over whether it should be in first place. The flavor of the curly noodles seemed to mesh well with the broth, which gave it a very ramen-like feel. While it was tasty, the fact that it was too close to regular ramen almost lost it points, so we put it in second place, but we’re still happy to have found a great way to enjoy chukamen when the weather is too cold for hiyashi chuka.

1. Udon

Udon turned out to be super compatible with Okinawa soba broth! Neither the noodles nor the broth tried to compete with the other but instead meshed perfectly together. It felt so natural to eat this dish that we were almost under the illusion that we eat it on the regular. This is a pairing we can wholeheartedly recommend.

To be honest, though, while the udon noodles felt like the best choice, all of the top three were very tasty, and even the soba noodles would do in a pinch. Which got us thinking…maybe there are even more noodle varieties beyond these that would pair well with Okinawa soba broth too, and we’re excited to try more flavor combinations in the future!

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