you don"t need to save the crystal for a special day, even water tastes better in a "Fancy Glass"

Friday, April 15, 2005

on all things udon...

As I was musing on what my next post would be, I spent a little time reading and responding on a forum thread over at CHOCOLATE AND ZUCHINI C&ZForum about local specialties *which I like to pronounce as Spe-shee-al-i-teeze and what food people think of as “The Thing” from their region. When I came to Japan 9 yrs. Ago I lived in an area called Kagawa for three years. Kagawa was called Sanuki in ancient times in Japan. Sanuki Province And the local special food is “Sanuki Udon”. All about Udon!

Udon is a fat, thick noodle made of buckwheat. See pic here It can be eaten hot or cold and the best Sanuki Udon is Handmade. In fact in Kagawa ken to serve factory made noodles is practically sacrilege.

I had many udon making lessons in my time in Kagawa click here for How to Make Udon Noodles and every teacher had a little trick or special way of making their udon that they said was the best and only way to do it. Many of my teachers were over 70 or 80 yrs old and they spoke in an old local dialect, so often I would need one translator to explain what the teacher was saying from old sanuki-ben (ben is dialect) to a younger Japanese speaker who would then translate that into simple Japanese or English so I could understand. Each different teacher or Sensei- taught me so much more than noodle making. I learned about their lives, folklore in the region, what they thought about the rest of the world and the direction that Japan was taking these days. Food really is culture, and sometimes it is the best door into another world.

My favorite udon is called Kitsune Udon. It is served with noodles, a wonderful hot broth made from fish stock, and simmered seaweed, then green onions sprinkled on top and the Kitsune part which is a triangle shaped piece of fried tofu. Kitsune means Fox in Japanese, and to the originators of this dish hundreds of years ago, the fried tofu looked like a red foxes ear. The Picture in at the top is a fresh bowl of kitsune udon.

In Kagawa it is almost a matter of local obligation and pride to eat udon often. It was even served as an option, every day! - in the school cafeteria where I was working as an English teacher. My school was Kotohira High School. And unlike here in Tokyo, Sanuki Udon was so inexpensive. A big bowl of homemade udon was about 200-300 yen about 2 or 3$ My Kagawa friends would be appalled that in Tokyo, udon is often served in noodle houses from frozen packs and a bowl of udon in the big city would be easily 700-800 yen. 7-8$ And on top of all of that, Tokyo-ites like their noodles quite soft (over boiled) where we folks from Sanuki land like our noodles quite aldente.

I will always remember my udon senseis (teachers) and all the great little noodle houses I went to in Kagawa. I am sure I will visit there again in the next few years and spend some quality noodle-time!


Terri said...

that's the one with the sweet flat thingie on top, right? gosh I love that kind of udon! FEED and the gang used to play at Doshisha University in Kyoto, drive down in a cramped mini-van (oh, the indie life;-), and after the show we would pile, exhausted into the famous local udon shop whose name escapes me (mainly because I couldn't read it).

great sweet hot smell. frisson of cold beer. good (at the time - who knew?!) artist/friends. feeling rather smug and culturally assimilated, for a minute or two at least...

HubrisSonic said...

dont feed the trolls

Nina said...

Hi Lauren,

My name is Nina, Ai Uchida's sister. I came across your blog at Chocolate and Zuchinni, and am amazed at what a small world this is! I love Fujimamas and am enjoying your blog very much. If you enjoy sanuki udon, I would like to recommend a restaurant in Akasaka called Hinaya. Authentic sanuki udon, hand-made noodles (perfectly al-dente), great service and atmosphere. Also, the owner, udon-maker and proprietor is my father, Nobu! Here is a link to a review of the restaurant from Metropolis last year:
If you are ever in the area, please give it a try. My personal favorite is goma-dare, but the kitsune is excellent as well. Best regards!

lauren said...

WOW small small world! thank you so much for posting. I will definately come to your restaurant and write about it too!

My blog is just a baby now, but I am really enjoying writing it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Unknown said...

Hello Lauren and Nina!

Thank you for your very informative blog! I am on an Udon mission and plan on traveling to Japan before May to take as many Udon courses as possible to hopefully someday master it like the real ones in Takamatsu! I was wondering if you have any contact names of the teachers of your favorite udon classes, so I may contact them? I will be going with my Japanese friend who will help me translate.

Would you happen to have any great leads to master udon makers who would be willing to teach me? I'm willing to stay as long as it takes to understand sanuki udon completely.

Thank you so much!

Do you think your dad would be willing to teach me how to make his udon in Tokyo? I would pay for the classes of course! An apprenticeship? Either way, I will definitely try your father's restaurant when I arrive in Tokyo.

Thanks so much!!