23 January, 2014

Unusual Udon

Last week, while drinking coffee with my Language Exchange partners, I asked them about a Japanese dish: Udon. I really love this thick Japanese noodle. They serve it like we serve spaghetti: with different toppings. But it comes in hot and cold varieties. My favourite is tempura-topped udon. 

But I struggle when confronted with a menu with other types. It is a relatively inexpensive Japanese "fast food" that you can easily buy at roadside stops on expressways, as we
My favourite: Tempura Udon.
often do when we're travelling.

My friends told me of several versions, including:

  • Racoon Udon (Tanuki Udon), which includes toppings of tempura batter (which look a lot like rice bubbles).
  • Fox Udon (Kitsune Udon), which has a slice of fried tofu on top.
  • Power Udon (Chikara Udon), which has omochi (chewy, pounded rice cake).
  • Curry Udon (Kare Udon), which has a curry sauce added.
  • Plain Udon (Kake Udon), with no topping.
All of the above come in a clear soy-based soup (made from bonito/fish flakes, soy, and mirin). 
  • Fried Udon (Yaki Udon), cooked like a stir-fry. (That is, no soup.)
This wikipedia page gives many more specialised varieties.

Our family loves noodles, and our Sunday lunch tradition in Japan is our own version of udon and ramen. I'm a little embarrassed to admit to Japanese people what we do to our udon at home! But my language exchange friends are good friends, so I told them.

We eat our noodles (at home) with little broth, and add our own "Western" toppings. Including, cheese, ham, corn, and (believe it or not) tomato sauce (US=ketchup). I don't do the latter, but at least two of my sons do!

One of our boys doesn't like udon, so he gets instant noodles (ramen) instead and another boys likes to mix his noodles! Ramen and Udon in the same bowl (see the photo). Ouch!

We eat all of this with chopsticks, by the way!

It is a much loved tradition, even if it is a bit odd. I reminded my Japanese friends that they do strange things to Western food, and they agreed. For example, they said, "Fish eggs on spaghetti."

We'll miss this in Australia. You can buy udon easily enough, but the broth to cook it in is harder to find (and very expensive). Or that was the case last time we were in Australia. And it just doesn't taste right without the slightly fishy-salty broth that we cook it in.


Deb said...

Hang on just a minute! The "racoon" and "fox" udon....those are just names, right? There's not fox in there is there????

Wendy said...

Yes, they are just names. My friends explained that there are legends that the the fox likes fried tofu and racoons like the tempura batter topping.

Georgia said...


Wendy said...

Thanks Georgia. I'll have to keep that in mind when we go back and see how easily I can get the ingredients for the broth. If it isn't too hard or expensive, it would be a great thing to make for a Japanese evening!

Anonymous said...

I do like Racoon udon, although I had not picked up the name. That makes me like it even more!