Served in fall, tsukimi udon is served with an egg that symbolizes the moon.
Udon is prepared with a special long knife called an udon-kiri
Udon restaurants are as common as ramen restaurants
Zaru udon is served cold and dipped in a soy-based sauce before eating.
Curry is so popular in Japan that here it has been combined with udon noodles! A fusion of traditional and modern foods.
Nagoya's rich and delicious misonikomi udon
A passion for udon
But where do these thick and chewy noodles that are so difficult to eat with chopsticks come from?
Udon (うどん) is among the most popular dishes in Japan, along with its cousins soba (buckwheat noodles) and ramen. These white noodles, very thick and chewy, are made from wheat flour and salt water.
While they are said to be more Japanese than ramen, the technique used to make them was in fact also imported from China. There is no consensus on when they arrived in Japan. Some believe it was a spy sent into the Middle Kingdom, the famous monk Kukai or the Rinzai sect. Many people argue over who the father of Japanese udon really is.
However, many of these stories say that udon originated in the region of Kagawa. The film Udon (2006, Katsuyuki Motohiro) retraces the history of when these noodles gained popularity in the 1980s, after the city decided to stake everything on this dish to attract visitors. Today it is a place of culinary pilgrimage. Takamatsu, the capital of the prefecture, has a specialty called Sanuki udon: noodles, tuna and kelp (seaweed).
More than a recipe, it is above all the udon manufacturing technique that makes them so special, including the step of pounding the dough with your feet (while it is covered with a plastic film, of course).
Skip to 0:37 to see this step.
Udon's recent popularity
It is only from the Edo era onwards that udon began to be eaten on a daily basis outside the temples, as they had previously been reserved for Buddhist monks. Quick to eat, they quickly become a popular dish that people ate on the run, or at the counter, similar to ramen.
There are several specialized udon chains in Japan, such as as Hanamaru Udon (our favorite, and it comes with an English menu) Marugame Seimen, Nakau or the more high-end Tsurutontan (you can customize your udon).
Just as there are ramen-ya, you'll find udon-ya (うどん屋, restaurants specializing in udon) on almost every corner.
Udon can be served hot or cold, with or without broth, and garnished with or without green onions. A very dark broth, made from a highly concentrated soy sauce, means that the dish is from Kanto, while a clear broth and finer udon noodles indicates that they were prepared in the Kansai style.Eaten cold and dipped in soy sauce, zaru udon is among the most popular udon recipes. But countless variations exist depending on the ingredients you want in your food. Tsukimi udon is served with eggs, misonikomi udon, the specialty from Nagoya has a rich miso broth with chicken and green onions, and finally Ise udon, from the sacred city of Ise, is prepared with dried bonito, sardine and kelp (seaweed). A more modern udon: the kare udon, is also hit with curry fans.