The Next Noodle Craze: Udon

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Trend alert! If you still think ramen is the only hip noodle in town, udon know what you’re missing.

The toothsome wheat-flour noodle from Japan has a history that dates back anywhere from 900 to 1,200 years (depending on whom you ask), when Buddhist monks are said to have introduced it. Now Mashable has dubbed udon “your newest midnight craving” and “the heir to ramen’s throne.”

Further proof of the thick noodle’s modishness: New York noodle nuts are lining up for hours for a chance to slurp the slippery goods at the new Union Square location of Japanese udon chain TsuruTonTan — the restaurant’s first international locale, whose doors swung open late last month. (And of course they’re posting photos of the lines, which are long and thick as noodles, on social media, creating additional buzz.) Some diners have even been turned away, prompting Eater NY (whose staffers were among those who left the noodle mecca emptyhanded, er, -bellied) to call it “the hottest noodle house in Union Square.”

So what makes udon — a mix of flour and gently salted water that has been kneaded into dough, pulled and sliced into slender strips — different from, say, soba and ramen? “Udon are traditionally Japanese and more like pasta, to serve with almost anything,” Joji Uematsu, who was part of the team who brought TsuruTonTan to the U.S., recently told The New York Times. “Ramen are more Chinese.”

The Union Square hot spot is not your average udon slinger: Its udon dishes are handmade with fancy ingredients like caviar and locally grown vegetables, and are artfully plated in beautiful bowls. But the udon craze is likely to stretch and swirl and lasso us all up, as udon spots are heading into Texas and Southern California this year.

How long do you think it will be before someone makes an udon-noodle burger bun?

Photo courtesy of iStock