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…
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.
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 ;)
Until next time, happy cooking~