Noodle dishes are generally popular in Japan and “Udon” noodles are different from others in that they are thick and white, made from flour, and seasoned with light soy sauce. Kagawa Prefecture, also nicknamed “Udon Prefecture”, is a famous place for “Udon” noodles. Their Udon noodles are called “Sanuki-udon” after the previous name of Kagawa Prefecture and it is popular because you can enjoy it in your favorite ways from the way how it is cooked to the choice of its toppings. Another great feature is the reasonable price, ranging from 100 yen to 200 yen for a bowl.
There are two ways of enjoying the noodles: firm noodles, where the noodles are cooled down in water after boiling to maintain the firmness, and soft noodles, which are eaten freshly boiled. There are also 3 way to enjoy firm noodles, which are “Kake-udon” where you pour plenty of soy sauce-based soup containing soup stock made from seafood on the noodles, “Bukkake-udon” where you put a little bit of soy sauce containing soup stock on the noodles and mix it, and “Shoyu-udon” where you simply put soy sauce on the noodles and enjoy the flavor of the noodles.
For the soft noodles freshly boiled, there are 2 ways of enjoying it. One is “Kamaage” where you dip the noodles in soup stock-based soy sauce and the other is “Kamatama” where you mix with noodles with a fresh egg, grown under strict quality control, and pour soy sauce and soup stock on them. There are also restaurants that serve their unique noodles including curry Udon, Wakame seaweed Udon or Kitsune Udon which has “Abura-age”, a deep-fried thinly sliced tofu, on top of Udon.
Some Sanuki-udon restaurants are regular restaurants where employees take your order and serve food, but the most popular style in Kagawa Prefecture is a self-serve style where customers choose their toppings and spices and pour soup on their own. Especially popular are the self-serve restaurants that stand on a part of the property of a noodle-making factory, which are popular because of their unique atmosphere even though the restaurants are small.
It is said that there are about 700 Udon restaurants in Kagawa Prefecture, but many of them are open only for a short time during lunch time, so you are recommended to go before noon. It is polite to order at least one serving per person and you should have small change ready since many of them do not accept credit cards. There are also places, such as “Nakano Udon School”, where you can experience the full process from making noodles to eating them. There are also chain restaurants of Sanuki-udon across Japan such as “Sanuki Udon HANAMARU” and “Marugame Seimen”, so you should definitely try while you are in Japan.
Nakano Udon School, Kotohira school
Address: 796 Kotohira-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa Prefecture
Directions: About 10 min walk from JR Kotohira Station
*Reservation required for Udon making workshop