If there’s one place that’s renowned around Japan for udon noodles, it’s Shikoku – home of Sanuki udon. Named after the a city in Kagawa prefecture (one of the four that make up Shikoku – lit. meaning ‘four countries’) it is famous for it’s pleasurable chewy texture and thick but almost earthy flavour.
Generally, udon is made from wheat-flour, which is made into a dough, rolled out and sliced into thin long pieces. It can then be served hot or cold, depending on the season. In the winter, it is popularly served in a dashi-based broth, with various winter vegetables and/or meat. Other ways of serving it hot include with a generous helping of curry (pictured below), or tempura, eggs and tofu. In the summer, it can be eaten dipped in a chilled dashi-shoyu mixture, served with light, fresh ingredients such as green onion, daikon (radish) or nori (seaweed).
Sanuki is a regional variety found in Shikoku, where it is said to be the first area to adopt udon when a monk brought it from China centuries ago. These days, it can be found with many different kinds of toppings and sauces, with a few regions producing their own udon of varying thickness, length and texture.
Udon is cheap and delicious, and stands proudly next to ramen as Japan’s answer to good fast food. It’s versatility is exactly what makes it interesting – if you ever live in Japan for a while you begin to grow fond of your own variety (in my case Kitsune udon of the Kansai area) and it’s exactly one of those things that make travelling a great experience since you don’t know what kind of delights to expect wherever you walk into an udon restaurant.