Udon (thick wheat noodles) is one of the noodle dishes that best represent Japan. Of the many types of udon found in Japan, the Sanuki udon (Sanuki is the old name of Kagawa) from Kagawa in Shikoku region appeals to a lot of people for its firm, chewy texture. Below are five shops in Kagawa that many udon lovers visit when they crave for some tasty udon.
1. Udon Honjin Yamadaya Sanuki Main Branch
Udon Honjin Yamadaya Sanuki is one of the biggest names in the field of udon in Kagawa, with as many as 4,000 people lining up every day just to get inside its shop that is housed within the premises of a historic brewery that boasts a superb atmosphere as soon as you enter. This restaurant is visited by a lot of tourists who come aboard tourist buses, and believe it or not, it has more than 300 seats ready for guests. During peak hours, you can wait to be seated while exploring the estate that has been designated as a registered tangible cultural property of Japan, and enjoying the view of the vast Japanese garden. Recommended at this restaurant is the Kama Bukkake (570 JPY), a dish that is eaten by pouring dashi (soup stock) over piping hot udon noodles. The special dashi, the springy udon and the aroma of wheat are truly exceptional. You can add a twist to the dish, too, by mixing in ginger, sesame seeds, spring onions and other condiments. Yamadaya is where you can enjoy the delicious taste of udon and the extraordinary atmosphere of the place at reasonable prices.
2. Konpira Udon
This branch of Konpira Udon is a restaurant that is annexed to a factory where you can taste authentic Sanuki udon at bargain prices. While the main branch is located on the road leading to Kotohira-gu Shrine, the shop next to the main factory is more recommended. Its menu may be simple compared to that of the branch near the shrine, which serves set meals, but this shop that is adjacent to the factory is frequented by a lot of the locals because they can eat real Sanuki udon here for as low as 150 JPY. Here, you must try the Shoyu (soy sauce) (150 JPY (incl. tax)), which offers a unique way of eating Sanuki udon by pouring special soy sauce over the full-bodied noodles. Mix with the local crowd and enjoy the true charm of Sanuki udon.
3. Men Musubi
Men Musubi is a little-known shop in the middle of a residential neighborhood that serves authentic hand-kneaded udon. This shop is particular about serving freshly made, not pre-cooked, noodles. Customers can’t get enough of the plump, chewy and smooth texture of their udon. If you come here, the dish you must try is the Toriten Oroshi Udon (700 JPY), a refreshing dish of udon soaked in special dashi and then topped with crunchy fried chicken and grated radish. This joint becomes an izakaya (tavern) at night, and the udon is only available during lunchtime (10:30 am – 2:30 pm), so take note of that when you decide to check out this place.
4. Nakamura Udon
Amid the growing trend of noodles being kneaded by machines, Nakamura Udon is a place that remains obsessed about hand-kneaded noodles. Here, you can still see seasoned chefs stretch, cut and boil the noodles. Recommended at this restaurant is the Kamatama (280 JPY for small serving and 380 JPY for large serving). With this dish, the just-boiled hot udon noodles are put in a bowl with a raw egg, and then eaten after pouring dashi or soy sauce on the noodles. The combination of egg that is made half-done by the heat of the udon with the dashi is the best. That very simplicity of the dish brings out the delicious flavors of the udon. If you visit this restaurant, you will be asked for your order as soon as you enter, so look at the menu outside and decide on what you’re having before you enter. This shop is also open only for lunch, and closes as soon as the noodles run out (10:00 am – 2:00 pm).
Okasen is a restaurant where you can dine on udon that took four hours to make because the chefs have to make subtle adjustments depending on the temperature and humidity that day. Its owner claims that cold noodles are the best for enjoying the smoothness and elasticity of Sanuki udon. You will feel the dedication of this shop to udon in every bowl of udon that does not make compromises on the noodles, dashi and arrangement. The Hiyaten Oroshi (972 JPY) with shrimp tempura on top is recommended here. If you simply want to enjoy the texture of the noodle, try Nama Joyu (fresh soy sauce)(432 JPY). The shop also sells souvenirs that you can carry at room temperature.
Noodles made from wheat flour can be found anywhere in the world, but when it comes to Japan, one of the noodles that it is most known for is the udon. Kagawa has a deeply entrenched udon culture so ingrained that this region has come to also be called “Udon-ken” (udon prefecture). If you happen to visit Kagawa, don’t forget to taste and compare the Sanuki udon in different spots.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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