24/02/2022

Slurping on Thick Japanese Noodles, Udon

Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle with a chewy texture. A versatile carb, it pairs well with a simple soup or even rich sauces, watery broth or thick creamy stock. It can be served hot or cold depending on what you want. With or without toppings, it’s great!


Table of Contents

  1. All About Udon
  2. A Look at Some Available Udon Dishes
  3. Udon-ya to Get Slurping
  4. Takeaway

All About Udon

When it comes to noodles, Japan is best known for these three; soba, ramen, and udon. Amongst these three, soba is the thinnest whilst udon is the thickest, with ramen somewhere in between. Udon is made from only 3 ingredients, namely wheat flour, salt, and water. There are many theories about the origins of udon noodles, none of which have been confirmed as true. The consensus between them though is that it most certainly seems to be Chinese influenced.

Udon is widely available. They are sold in supermarkets in dry, frozen, or fresh forms. They are also very cheap, costing less than 100 yen for a 3 packet set in fresh form. If you like, you can also try hand-making udon. (Get ready to knead!!) 

Areas Famous for Udon  

Kagawa Prefecture in the Shikoku Region is known for Sanuki Udon. For more about Kagawa Prefecture, including where in the Prefecture to try Udon, check this article: 

The Smallest in Japan: Kagawa Prefecture

Gunma Prefecture in the Kanto Region is also known for Mizusawa Udon. They also have a local specialty, Himokawa Udon that is super-wide and flat yet thin. It is an essential ingredient for Okkirikomi, a local udon dish. For more about Gunma Prefecture, including things to eat, check this article:

Gunma: The Perfect Land for Adventure

A Look at Some Available Udon Dishes 

Most udon dishes can be served either hot or cold; with the exception of certain udon dishes. It will be indicated on the menu with 冷 (Rei) for cold and 温 (Nuku) or 熱 (Atsu) for hot.  

Without further ado, let’s have a look at some udon dishes you can try: 

Kake Udon

The most basic and classic of udon dishes - udon noodles in dashi soup with minimal toppings of sliced green onions. Adding toppings to it transforms it into a different udon dish, as you can see below:

  • Add tempura: Tempura Udon

  • Add aburaage (fried tofu pouch): Kitsune Udon

  • Add tenkasu (tempura bits): Tanuki Udon 

  • Add stir fry beef: Niku Udon 

  • Add raw egg: Tsukimi Udon 

Bukkake Udon

Bukkake udon with tenkasu, spring onion, and lemon wedge toppings

This dish is completed by plating the cold udon then splashing (bukkake) cold dashi-tsuyu on the noodles. Toppings may be added. The hot version of this dish requires re-warming the cold noodles. 

Yaki Udon 

Yaki udon served on a hot plate

Yaki udon is a noodle dish that substitutes soba in yaki soba for udon. It was created purely by circumstances during post World War II when soba was in scarcity. Compared to yakisoba, it has a more chewy texture which some people prefer.

Curry Udon

As the name implies, curry udon is udon with curry broth in place of the usual dashi soup. This udon dish is only served hot and is a winter favourite. Some places only have this dish on their winter limited time menu. The chewy udon noodles coated with thick Japanese curry is a must-try.

Kamaage Udon 

Kamaage udon served with dipping sauce

Kama 釜 means pot; kamaage 釜揚げ means straight from the pot. Kamaage udon is a bowl of udon in its own cooking water. Like tsukemen, it is a dipping noodle dish. Just dip the udon into the accompanying dashi-tsuyu. It is sometimes confused with Kake Udon due to their similar appearance.  

Udon-ya to Get Slurping

It’s not hard to find an udon shop. Major train stations, food courts, highway rest areas, shopping malls, shopping streets, and even neighborhood mom-and-pop shops have them. Most udon shops run self-service operations. Grab a tray, order your udon, grab some tempura (optional), pay and collect your udon. Don’t forget to grab chopsticks and a spoon, as some places don’t have them at your table. Also, there’s usually free toppings of tenkasu and spring onions you can add-on yourself.

Here are some places to go for udon:

Marugame Seimen

A popular udon chain restaurant with hundreds of branches all over Japan. They have also expanded overseas with stores in Singapore, America, Taiwan, Indonesia, and other countries. Marugame Seimen specializes in Sanuki udon, which is known as the best type. They also offer a selection of tempura to pair with your noodles and also inari-sushi.

Hanamaru Udon 

Another udon chain restaurant, you may recognize its logo of an orange flower with a spiral center. Hanamaru Udon was founded in Kagawa prefecture and specializes in, of course, Sanuki udon. They have collaboration stores with Yoshinoya, a Japanese fast food chain. You can sometimes see their stores next to each other, or selling each other’s food (typically side dishes). 

Hanayama Udon

Not to be confused with Hanamaru, Hanayama’s logo depicts a sakura flower. Hanayama Udon is founded in Gunma Prefecture. Outside of Gunma, they only have 2 stores in Tokyo at Ginza and
Nihonbashi (newly opened in January 2022). Aside from regular udon, they also have Gunma local specialty Himokawa Udon. 

Maruka

Located in Kanda Jinbocho, Tokyo is the super popular Udon Maruka. Expect long queues during peak hours, but don’t worry as the line moves fast. With 4.3 star ratings by over 2,000 people on Google and No.1 on Tablelog (last we checked), Maruka offers superb quality udon. 

※ Tablelog, “うどん 丸香

Tsurutontan

Tsurotontan can be found in Tokyo and Osaka areas, usually with long lines at peak hours. They have also expanded overseas with 4 branches in America. What makes Tsurutontan interesting is that they have taken the simple traditional noodle dish to the next level with fusion styles. You can find western style broths like creamy crab soup and gorgonzola potage, as well as Asian styles like green curry and Dak-Galbi. They are not afraid to go wild creating unique unheard of udon recipes.

Takeaway

Cold udon noodles with dipping broth

Udon is a beloved Japanese noodle dish. Suitable for all seasons and any occasion, it can make for a cooling refreshing meal in summer to a warm hearty one in winter. There are still plenty of other ways to enjoy udon like nabeyaki, sukiyaki, Western styles, and more. Lunch, dinner or supper, it’s always a good time to enjoy some udon.

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