Marugame Udon, a ubiquitous Tokyo noodle shop, serves this delicious “hidden” menu item for just 130 yen.
Travel is expensive. It’s dangerously easy to go over budget on plane tickets, hotels and train fare, especially in notoriously expensive Tokyo. So, while you should definitely take care to fit a couple of fine dining experiences into your itinerary, it’s also a good idea to bookmark a few dirt cheap options for when you inevitably need to eat on a dime – you know, so you don’t end up having to sell the family dog when you get back from your vacation.
Luckily, Tokyo is actually full of super cheap food and our one and only Mr. Sato (possibly out of financial necessity rather than journalistic ambition) has been on a years-long quest to uncover the best belly-filling deals.
His latest find? A DIY tempura rice bowl that can be yours for the shockingly low price of just 130 yen (US$1.20).
Marugame Udon is a noodle chain with locations scattered all over Tokyo. While the restaurant’s big seller is, obviously, udon, it also offers individual bowls of rice, which you are free to customize to your heart’s content with a smorgasbord of complimentary toppings and condiments. By piling on a whole bunch of tenkasu tempura scraps (basically, bits of fried batter), grated ginger, spring onion, and tempura sauce, Mr. Sato reports diners can MacGuyver themselves a great-tasting and satisfying tempura-don rice bowl for just the 130 yen cost of the rice alone.
And, if you want to go extra fancy, you can, as Mr. Sato did, top the whole thing off with a healthy dollop of tartar sauce to make your tempura bowl just that much more indulgent. Sure, it turns an already pretty calorie-dense dish into a nutritional atom bomb, but hey, calories don’t count when you’re on vacation.
If you’re the type that would rather not eat something that seems like it was custom made for a starving college student, you’re also free to swap out the tenkasu with various pieces of actual tempura for 100-200 yen a pop for a more traditional tempura bowl that still clocks in at well under the cost of a McDonald’s meal set.
Feeling hungry already? Good, because the free tartar sauce is a limited promotion that Marugame runs at seemingly random intervals once or twice a year. With a little Japanese skill or the help of a nearby train station attendant or hotel concierge, you can use this Marugame store finder to get yourself to the most convenient location.
[ Read in Japanese ]