Kagawa Prefecture, the Udon Kingdom
Udon are thick Japanese noodles made from flour, water, and salt. They are made all over Japan, but Kagawa Prefecture is the only place to identify so strongly with this food, that they call themselves the Udon Prefecture. Udon from Kagawa are called Sanuki udon, after the old name for the region.
Sanuki udon are distinctive because of their firm texture. This is achieved by kneading and rolling the dough repeatedly. There are many udon restaurants in Kagawa that still make noodles by hand instead of using a machine.
Kagawa Loves Udon
Kagawa is the smallest prefecture in Japan, yet there are over 500 udon restaurants. Most people in Kagawa have a favorite udon restaurant that they have been visiting since they were a child, and some people eat udon every day.
In Kagawa, wheat is often double cropped with rice. There is a tradition in Kagawa of eating udon to celebrate the end of rice planting season. As rice planting usually ends in the beginning of July, Kagawa has marked July 2 as Udon Day in recognition of this tradition.
Udon makes an appearance in other festivals and celebrations in Kagawa. While most of Japanese eat traditional soba noodles on New Year’s Eve, people in Kagawa welcome a new year with a bowl of udon. It is also gifted to wedding guests, or eaten to celebrate moving into a new home. In Kagawa, udon is not just a family meal staple, but rather a special way to celebrate life’s milestones.
Sanuki Udon, Variety in Simplicity
The ingredients for Sanuki udon noodles are always the same, but there are several ways to enjoy the noodles. You can eat udon warm with hot, flavored soup like in kake udon, dip cold udon in sauce with zaru udon, or enjoy a combination of both with kamaage udon, where the udon is served in cooking water, and then dipped in sauce.
Even the way udon is ordered and served can differ. Some udon restaurants ask you to order at the table, others are self-service, and then there are places known as udon factories, where the noodles are freshly made in store. At self-service restaurants, you place your order at the counter, get your udon noodles, heat them up in hot water, add the soup and then choose your tempura. Deciding how much soup to put in and what tempura you like to have is what makes self-service so much fun. When it comes to Sanuki udon, choosing where to eat is just as important as choosing how to eat.