Back in September, I had the pleasure of meeting, cooking and going on an udon tour with a cookmapper from Kagawa, the udon noodle capital of Japan. We talked (and tasted) all things udon and I even learned how to cook one of the simplest of udon dishes you won’t always find at the shops – Kamatama Udon (yes, there is a recipe! Keep reading :).
When it comes to udon, Kagawa is the place to go as it’s home to Japan’s most famous – and as some might argue the best – Sanuki Udon. In fact, Kagawa has the highest per capita consumption of udon in the nation!
The name “Sanuki Udon” comes from the historical name of Kagawa prefecture, “Sanuki,” which was used up until the beginning of the Meiji Period (late 1800s). In terms of udon, it’s now used as a kind of brand name to denote the style of udon made in Kagawa.
What makes Sanuki udon different from other kinds? One is the shape and texture. Sanuki udon is cut into long, square-shaped noodles and have a soft yet extra chewy texture arising from the way the dough is kneaded and rolled, as well as a special ratio of water to salt to flour. The broth used for the soup or dipping sauce is typically made from small dried sardines called iriko, though it may differ depending on the shop.
Udon shops in Shikoku are often semi-self-serve, cafeteria style – grab a tray, choose your type of udon from the menu (which is prepared for you on the spot), and lastly pick up any optional pre-fried tempura to go on the side. Here are some of the things you might find on the menu…