Sanuki Udon and Story behind Kamatama Udon

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!

Kagawa is located in the Shikoku region of Japan. (Image: Wikipedia)

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…

Zaru udon
Zaru Udon – drained and chilled udon served with a concentrated soup for dipping

Wakame udon
Wakame udon – served in a hot soup with wakame seaweed.
Hiyashi udon
Hiyashi udon – chilled udon served with somewhat concentrated cold soup (“hiyashi” means chilled). Usually comes with a sliced sudachi citrus or lemon.
Tsukimi udon
Tsukimi udon – lit. “moon viewing” udon, served in a hot soup with a raw egg (representing the moon) and in this case, fried tofu. The egg gets mixed in to add extra flavor to the soup.
Optional tempura - youll find everything from eggplant to lotus root, to plump shrimp and this mixed veggie and shrimp "kakiage"
Optional tempura – you’ll find everything from eggplant to lotus root, to plump shrimp and this mixed veggie & mini-shrimp “kakiage.”
Udon toppings
Toppings – once at the table, you can choose to garnish with sichimi (a spicy 7-spice mix), ground sesame seeds and a splash of vinegar.

Kamatama Udon (plus recipe!)

Kamatama udon isn’t anything special – it’s simply hot udon taken straight from the cooking pot (or “kama”) mixed tossed with a whisked raw egg (“tama,” short for tamago, meaning egg in Japanese). The udon is then sprinkled with a bit of dashi joyu (soy sauce flavored with Japanese dashi stock) and topped with chopped Japanese scallions. Because the noodles are still very hot when mixed with the egg, it actually gets partially cooked, creating a sort of creamy “sauce” that melds beautifully with the savory-salty dashi joyu and scallions.

Kamatama Udon
Kamatama Udon

Before the 1990’s, you couldn’t actually find Kamatama Udon on the menu anywhere and it was only served to patrons who frequently commuted to their favorite shops. One story goes that a regular customer to Kagawa’s Yamagoe Udon shop used to bring in his own bowl along with a raw egg. He would crack the egg in the bowl and order a serving of freshly boiled hot udon to mix in. Curious, the shop owners tried it themselves and apparently loved it so much they put it on their menu. After its success, other shops decided to do the same and though you’ll still only find it a few places, it has become a favorite for many a udon lover.

Lucky for us, our Kagawa cookmapper, Yuki aka Da Washoku Kitchen, taught us how to make Kamatama udon and shared the recipe on Cookmap (along with step-by-step photos!) With just 4 ingredients, you can easily make this at home in a matter of minutes. Get the recipe below and get cooking ;)

Kamatama Udon Recipe 

Also, check out Yuki’s blog where she writes about good food and recipes in Japanese and English. (P.S., if you’re a matcha green tea lover, definitely take a look at her sweets recipes here!)

Until next time, happy cooking~

-f

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