Are you up for some perfectly crafted udon noodles?
Gunma Prefecture in Japan is blessed with an award-winning adorable mascot and natural hot springs, making it a popular tourist spot. That’s not all though, because it’s also home to the best udon in the country.
Our Japanese-language writer Ahiru Neko took it upon himself to test that claim, and soon found himself in sweltering Tatebayashi Station in Gunma. It’s currently midsummer in Japan, and the thought of trudging through a city famous for spas was enough to make him dizzy.
But for a man with a mission, weather is a mere obstacle. With renewed vigor, Ahiru set off to hunt down some wild udon, only to stumble across his prey almost immediately. A flag sign fluttered in the wind, with the words “Udon Tenkaichi Tournament 2015 Grand Champion for 3 Consecutive Years” on it.
It appeared that the owner of the flag sign, the restaurant Hanayama Udon, won three consecutive titles in Japan’s biggest udon tournament since 2013. A queue had already formed despite it not even being close to noon yet — Ahiru expected as much from a store of such renown.
Our writer finally managed to get a seat, but suddenly discovered a glaring oversight in his master plan: the store’s award-winning dish, Demon’s Hair River, would only begin selling after 1 p.m. on weekdays!
Much to his chagrin, Ahiru had no choice but to settle for second best instead. He ordered the Kama-Dama Gozen Set (1,200 yen, US$10.84), and though it was a little pricey for noodles, the set came with a tendon (tempura rice bowl) and drink too. The option to upsize the udon was a neat addition as well.
Ahiru wasted no time adding soy sauce to the soft boiled egg and began digging in, certain it would make him forget about his blunder earlier.
The silky soft udon had a pleasant bite to it, and it went down as smoothly as if he was drinking water. The pairing of noodles and egg created a creamy harmony, with prawns and spring onions producing tiny bursts of flavor in Ahiru’s mouth. So this is what udon from Tatebayashi City tastes like.
It was a shame our writer couldn’t get his hands on some Demon’s Hair River, but he bet this Kama-Dama udon made for an equally intense experience.
▼ The tendon wasn’t too shabby either.
Alas, Ahiru had a nagging feeling he was still missing something; he just couldn’t get Demon’s Hair River out of his mind.
As he found out later though, Hanayama Udon actually has a Ginza branch in Tokyo! So he won’t have to go far next time to try it, and perhaps get some liquid nitrogen Kit Kats in Ginza afterward for dessert while he’s there.
Hanayama Udon Main Shop / 花山うどん 本店 お食事処
Gunma-ken, Tatebayashi-shi, Honcho, 2-3-48
Open: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Closed: Sundays, last Saturday of every month
[ Read in Japanese ]