Udon noodles   饂飩

Date of publication :
Tsukimi udon

Served in fall, tsukimi udon is served with an egg that symbolizes the moon.

udon

Udon is prepared with a special long knife called an udon-kiri

Zaru udon

Zaru udon is served cold and dipped in a soy-based sauce before eating.

Kare udon

Curry is so popular in Japan that here it has been combined with udon noodles! A fusion of traditional and modern foods.

Udon

Nagoya's rich and delicious misonikomi udon

Zaru udon

Zaru udon

Udon, a popular Japanese dish

From where do these thick and difficult to eat udon noodles originate? Udon is a very popular Japanese noodle dish, along with soba and ramen. Easy to tell apart, these thick white and chewy noodles are made from wheat flour and saltwater.

THE HISTORY AND MANUFACTURE OF UDON

Today, udon (うどん) is the most consumed noodle in Japan, along with ​​soba (buckwheat noodles). Easy to tell apart, udon noodles are the thickest noodles, 2 to 4mm wide.

While said to be more Japanese than ramen, the technique of making udon noodles is believed to have come 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 really the udon manufacturing technique that makes them so special, including the step of pounding the dough with your feet (while they're covered with a plastic film, of course!).

It wasn't until the Edo period (1603 -1868) that the Japanese began to eat udon noodles on a daily basis outside the temples, as they had previously been reserved for Buddhist monks. Quick to eat, they soon become a popular dish that people ate on the run, or at a counter, similar to ramen.

DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF UDON 

This typical Japanese dish can be served hot or cold, with or without broth, and garnished with or without green onions. If in a very dark broth, made from a highly concentrated soy sauce, it means that the dish is from Kanto, while a lighter broth and finer udon noodles indicate that it was prepared in the Kansai style.

Eaten cold and dipped in soy sauce, zaru udon is among the most popular udon recipes, especially during the height of summer. 


Kitsune udon

Kitsune udon

Ise udon

Ise udon

Zaru udon

Zaru udon

But countless variations exist depending on the ingredients you want in your food. Tsukimi udon is served with eggs, miso-nikomi udon 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). 

Kitsune udon sees the famous noodles served with fried tofu and spring onions. In tanuki udon, you will find crumbled tempura batter, in reference to a legend telling that a tanuki would have stolen the vegetables and the fish of the tempura, leaving only the crumbs. More modern, the kare udon, in curry sauce, is a hit with curry fans. Finally, the Japanese also enjoy fried udon noodles, in the style of yakisoba.


WHERE TO EAT UDON IN JAPAN?

There are several chains specializing in udon in Japan, such as Hanamaru Udon (our favorite, with English menus available), Marugame Seimen, Nakau or the more classy Tsurutontan (you can customize your udon there). You can find udon-ya (うどん屋, a restaurant specializing in udon) almost everywhere.

Here are our recommendations for the best places to eat udon in Tokyo and Kyoto:


MARUKA - TOKYO

Perfect if you're on a budget this restaurant has dishes cost around 500 yen. Here, the udon is made in the Kagawa style. Be sure to order a side dish, including the delicious chicken tempura. You will find Maruka in a quiet area, not far from the Imperial Palace.

Address: 3-16-1 Kanda-Ogawamachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Udon shin

Udon at Udon shin Tokyo

udonUdon at the Omen Pontocho

Udon at the Omen Pontocho restauran

UDON SHIN - TOKYO

Not far from Shinjuku station, Udon Shin is a very popular restaurant with Tokyoites, serving zare and kaku udon. Once seated in the small shop, let yourself be amazed by the superb plates of udon served in an elegantly wound spiral. Be sure to try the soft boiled egg tempura!

Address: 2-20-16, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

OMEN - KYOTO

In Kyoto, the Omen chain restaurant specializes in delicious udon dishes. Whether you try the restaurants near Ginkaku-ji or on Pontocho, you will not be disappointed. The udon is served with delicious organic vegetables in a tasty broth.

Omen Ginkaku-ji: 74 Jodoji Ishibashicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8406
Omen Pontocho: Nakagyoku Shijyodori Pontoccho Nishi, Kyoto 604-8014

UDON RECIPE TO MAKE AT HOME

Comments Read comments from our travellers