Ready, Get Set... Udon!
It is hard to believe, but Japan does indeed have an Udon Prefecture. Located on the small island of shikoku, Kagawa is famously known as the “Udon-ken” for being very famous with these delicious thick wheat floured noodles. These noodles are so popular here, that there is even a map for all the udon shops around! Tourists can use the map and walk to the shops, or even take the udon taxi or bus! YES! There is a bus AND a taxi that do this in Kagawa! So, what is it exactly that makes these bowls of noodle soup so irresistible?
Photo: Yuya Tamai on Flickr
Udon noodles are made by simple flour, salt and water, kneaded together then cut into thick strips. The noodles are served with a simple broth made from dashi, soy sauce and sometimes mirin, and can be enjoyed hot or chilled depending on the season! The noodles are topped off with sliced scallions and a side of tempura topping. There are many types of udon, the most basic one as described above is the kake udon, and then there is the bukkake udon which has a zest of lemon, as well as kitsune udon where the noodles are served with a piece of fried bean curd. The most famous udon in Japan however, is the Sanuki Udon.
Photo: Yuya Tamai on Flickr
Sanuki, is the traditional name of Kagawa prefecture. The noodles were highly popular during the day and named after the province (In fact, the Hanamaru Udon franchise originated from Kagawa!). Many tourists venture into Kagawa with the hopes of having a taste of this delicacy, and will usually ask the same question when they arrive, “Where can I get a bowl of Sanuki udon?” The answer to this question is actually really easy. ANYWHERE IN KAGAWA! The Sanuki udon that is referred to is not the recipe, but instead is the wheat and flour itself cultivated in the area and used to make the noodles. So, it doesn’t matter which shop you go into, as long as you are in Kagawa, they are sure to be using Kagawa-made, or in other words, Sanuki-made noodles!
Photo: Danny Luong on Flickr
So, before you grab your map and start your udon-journey, there is one more thing you need to know. There are mainly three types of udon shops available in Kagawa. The first one, is the self-udon shop (セルフ店). The self-udon shop works like a fast food restaurant where customers order their food upfront at the counter before sitting down. The second, is the general udon shop (一般店). This one works just like a normal restaurant where you sit down and a waiter comes to take your order. The third and rarest, is the noodle-making udon shop (製麺所タイプ). These are actually shops that specialize in making noodles, but also sell udon as a side business.
Grab your bowl of Udon now!
Photo: Elsie Hui on Flickr