Noodles in Asia and Pasta in Europe may look similar, however they have many differences.
Japanese noodles tend to use softer wheat whilst pasta wheat is generally the harder, durum variety that grows in the Mediterranean region. Softer wheat gives noodles a lighter colour, a smoother, silkier feel and enables them to cook quickly, whilst harder durum wheat provides pasta with a more golden colour, a strong, elastic texture and a firmer bite.
Also, noodles generally contain salt, added to develop the softer protein and help bind the dough, whilst pasta is mostly salt-free. This means that noodles are cooked without the need for extra salt.
Noodles were traditionally served in a hot or cold seasonal broth whilst pasta had a sauce added. Nowadays, though, fusion cuisine is offering all sorts of exciting new ways to prepare noodles.
But the most important difference is how they are made: whilst pasta dough is generally extruded, much like squeezing a toothpaste tube, noodles are made to the "roll-and-cut" method.
This process is essentially the same as that traditionally used by Japanese people in their own homes and local noodle shops. It begins by adding salted water to freshly ground organic flour. The correct salt content is critical to bind the dough together and to make sure that the noodles stay fresh during the natural drying process. The dough is thoroughly kneaded, then allowed to rest for a period to reach the right consistency.
It is then passed through a series of rollers to form long sheets of various thicknesses. The last roller has a cutter attached, which is adjusted to cut the dough into either thick or thin soba and udon noodles. The long ribbon-like strands emerging from the cutter are then chopped into two-metre lengths and placed into a special drying room.
After naturally and slowly drying for at least thirty hours at room temperature, the noodles are cut and packed. The whole process takes four times as long as the modern method, which can be completed in a single working day.
The benefits of long, slow production are providing the best possible flavour and digestibility.