Crazy About Sanuki Udon Noodles! – 2
KAGAWA – I would like to proudly introduce the following udon restaurants. If you visit Kagawa Prefecture and have a chance to eat udon, don’t miss them! Two are located in the back alley and the other is along the arterial road. Each udon place has to strive to survive amongst severe competition and be sure to add some creativity. I’ve presented them in order of the most traditional to most creative.
- Most Traditional: Hyogo in Sakaide City 「兵郷」
Sakaide is located near the Seto-Ohashi bridge. When you get off at the JR Sakaide Station, it will be about a 10 minute walk. Hyogo is located behind a parking lot and easy to miss. The best way to find the place is to ask somebody. Neighbors definitely know this place.
I arrived at Hyogo at 8:45 in the morning, and there were already several people eating breakfast there. Good to know! People here still eat udon for breakfast! It reminded me of my high school years.
Both the cooking and eating areas of this place are, as you see in this picture, quite old. After you get your bowl of noodles, you put on your favorite condiments and bring it to casher. Then you take it to the eating area and pour on some broth from a huge tank before taking a seat. The taste is first class! Both the noodles and the broth are perfect. When I went there recently, an old lady had just put out some pieces of round Kakiage tempura. I took one of them and placed it on the noodles. You really have to pour broth over the tempura so that the crispy tempura will become softer. The oil of the tempura will be blended into the fish and seaweed broth (called “dashi”), making the best flavor for noodles. Usually, I don’t add any tempura, but if it is fresh, you might want to try it out. It’s really good!
- Fairly Traditional: Wataya in Marugame City 「綿谷」
Marugame is close to Sakaide. After you get off at the JR Marugame station, it will be about a 20-25 minute walk from there. This is also located in an inconspicuous place, but you will probably see a long line around lunchtime when you near it.
Wataya’s strength is their noodles They are extra thick and heavy. The portion for one person is huge. Still, you can eat them all. Don’t worry! As you see in the photo, a shiny and silky fresh noodle is wider than a chopstick. The chewiness is also perfect. Their method of boiling must be very skillful. If you eat them all, you will definitely be satisfied. Meat with the noodles is popular at this place, and hungry men usually order meat noodles. I didn’t order the meat dish this time, but I am sure if I ate it, I wouldn’t be hungry until midnight.
Inside the restaurant is like a gym. It is spacious and people line up towards the cashier. This is not a self-service place. You order what you want at the window and then slide over to your right side to receive your noodles. Wataya opens at 8:30 in the morning and closes as soon as noodles are sold out. They usually close around 14:00 and don’t reopen in the evening.
- Less Traditional: Jumbo Udon Takagi in Zentsuji City「ジャンボうどん高木」
If you are a big udon noodle eater, this place in Zentsuji is ideal. The city is near the Zozusan mountain and well-known Kotohira-gu shrine. When you order jumbo udon, you can enjoy noodles that are four times larger than regular. The jumbo size is as expensive as 650 JPY, but if you want more, you don’t have to pay extra. But if you cannot finish all, you have to pay a penalty. The records of past challengers are on the wall. The champion as of January 2017 ate four jumbos, meaning 16 times as many noodles as the regular size. Here also, the noodles are thick and long. The regular size is already voluminous, but usually you can eat the lot since they taste so good!
This photo shows Kamaage udon, which are noodles directly from a big boiling pan. Immediately after the noodles are ready, an appropriate amount of noodles are scooped up into a bowl with hot water. You will take some noodles out of the bowl and dip them into a smaller cup of special soy sauce-based soup. Kamaage is a very popular way of eating udon here.
Aside from udon, you might want to try stewed octopus. The octopus is eaten with mustard. People usually order udon and octopus here, as it is a specialty at only this restaurant. There must be some secrets in the soup used for both the noodles and the soy sauce-flavored octopus.
You will always have room for udon while you are in this prefecture. Like everybody, I love tasty food. But I don’t spend much on fancy food in Tokyo, which is such a great city where you can eat almost any food from any prefecture and even any country. Today, in Tokyo, Sanuki udon noodle restaurants are emerging. But I don’t eat udon in Tokyo because the beloved udon from my high school years in my hometown does not exist in this city yet. I freeze authentic Sanuki udon that my mother sends every couple of months and boil them when I feel sick or having a craving for them. Sanuki udon is such a special food for Kagawans. There are so many attractive tourist opportunities in Kagawa, both culturally and historically, like some of the 88 temples. But, even if you visit this prefecture only for udon noodles, it’s worth it!
Text by Motomi Takahashi
Where is Kagawa?
How to get to Kagawa Prefecture from Tokyo
🚄: Take the Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train form Tokyo. It will take about three hours to the JR Okayama Station. Change to the Marine Liner to the JR Sakaide Station.
🚌: Take a night bus from the JR Tokyo Station to the JR Takamatsu Station. It will take about 12 hours, during which time you can sleep in the bus.
You can take a local JR train to move from Sakaide to Marugame and Zentsuji.
Where are the 3 udon restaurants?
- Hyogo/兵郷: 3-2-9, Kotobuki-cho, Sakaide City https://tabelog.com/kagawa /A3702/A370201/37000230/
- Wataya/綿谷: 2-6-18, Kitahirayama-cho, Marugame City https://tabelog.com/kagawa/A3702/A370202/37000289/
- Jumbo Udon Takagi/ジャンボうどん高木: 1000-2, Harada-cho, Zentsuji City https://tabelog.com/kagawa/A3703/A370302/37000253/