While the terms "soba" and "udon" are sometimes used synonymously or simply as names for Asian noodles, they are actually two distinct types of noodles with very different taste profiles. Originating in Japan, udon and soba have different culinary uses, but both are enjoyed as part of a traditional Japanese diet.
Soba vs. Udon
Soba is made using buckwheat flour, while udon is made with wheat flour. Buckwheat gives soba noodles a slightly nutty flavor, and, although pure buckwheat noodles are available, many varieties include wheat as well. Udon noodles, when fresh, are much chewier and thicker than soba noodles, while dried udon noodles are more dense.
Both types of noodles are eaten year-round in both cold and hot preparations. However, udon is typically favored in cold winter months, while soba is usually eaten in hot summer months. Rich in digestive enzymes, soba is eaten as a folk remedy to improve digestion; udon is low in fat and high in complex carbohydrates and provides sustained energy.
Udon is most often used in soups and stir-fries, as the noodles hold up well when cooked. Soba, though present in some soups, is most commonly eaten cold along with dipping sauces during the hot summer months.