Sanuki Udon is the soul food of Kagawa prefecture, and it’s by far the No.1 speciality in Kagawa. It’s widely seen as the best type of udon in Japan.
Kagawa Prefecture, formerly called “Sanuki” has the highest number of Udon Restaurants/Shops per capita in Japan.
Everywhere you go, you find Sanuki Udon Shops in Kagawa.
Sanuki Udon is a culture in Kagawa.
Traditionally, Sanuki Udon is served at life events such as weddings or funerals in Kagawa.
The locals love Sanuki Udon and many of them eat it everyday.
It’s a special feast as well as a quick snack for Kagawa locals.
Some Japanese people from different regions visit Kagawa Prefecture just to do a Sanuki Udon restaurant crawl for their love of Sanuki Udon.
I hope it’s going to be the next Japanese food boom after the world famous ramen noodle.
Cheap, Quick and Delicious
This keyword is well described for Sanuki Udon.
It’s cheap, quick and delicious, but also the quality is the highest compared to other types of udon noodles in Japan.
Sanuki Udon noodle is firm and chewy, and the broth/soup is made with Iriko / dried sardines instead of bonito flakes that are common in Japan.
I’d love you to try Sanuki Udon at least once when you are in Takamatsu or somewhere else in Kagawa Prefecture.
First, let me introduce 6 types of common Sanuki Udon.
Kake is the most simple and most popular type of Sanuki Udon.
It usually comes with noodles in a hot broth made of Iriko Dashi/dried sardines.
Kake is usually the most reasonable type of Sanuki Udon with simple toppings such as chopped spring onions or grated ginger and sometimes Wakame seaweed.
The price starts at around 180 yen if you are at a local restaurant in a non-touristic area.
There is another version called Hiya-Kake. Hiya means cold in Japanese, and it comes with cold broth instead of hot one.
There is also another version called Hiya-Hiya. Hiya means cold in Japanese as explained before. With Hiya-Hiya, you get cold noodles with cold broth.It’s simple, isn’t it?
For Kake Udon, you can choose noodles either hot or cold, and also sdeoup hot or cold.
Don’t take this word wrong, it’s not lewd and not what most of you would expect.
Bukkake literally means “Pouring something over something else” in Japanese.
With Bukkake, you pour dipping sauce over cold noodles.It usually comes with chopped spring onions or grated daikon radish on top.
But toppings you get on top of noodle depend on restaurants you visit.
There are so many varieties of Bukkake Udon that I can’t list all here. So I’d like you to visit as many restaurants as possible and try as many varieties of Bukkake Udon as possible.
Zaru is a strainer in Japanese. When it comes to Zaru Udon, the noodles are usually placed on a bamboo strainer. It usually comes with a thick dipping sauce. You dip the noodle into the sauce and eat.
You can add toppings if you like for extra cost. Chopped Spring Onion and grated radish are usually free of charge in Sanuki Udon Restaurants in Kagawa.
Shoyu udon is one of the simplest forms of Sanuki Udon.
With Shoyu Udon, the texture, firmness and chewiness of the noodle is at its best.
You simply pour soy sauce/shoyu over cold noodles, and mix them all up in your bowl and eat it.
How simple is that!
The shoyu/soy sauce is sometimes mixed with Iriko/dried sardine dashi.
So, if you are vegetarian and if the soy sauce is pure, not mixed with other fishy ingredients, you can eat that Shoyu Udon!
Ask if their soy sauce is pure or mixed with dashi/fish stock.
For example, this is how you ask in Japanese.
Ja: Kono shoyu ni dashi wa haitte masuka?(この醤油にダシは入ってますか？)
En:Does this shoyu/soy sauce contain dashi/fish stock?
5.Kama-tama（釜たま）(Can be vegetarian)
Kamatama was given birth in an ultra famous shop called Yama-Goe Udon（山越うどん）.
There’s always a massive line in front of the restaurant although the shop is in a super countryside, in the middle of nowhere.
It comes with hot noodles right out of the boiling water in a bowl.
You pour raw egg and soy sauce or Dashi soy sauce over the hot noodles.
Add some toppings like chopped spring onions or any tempuras you like, mix them up in your bowl and enjoy!
In most of the Sanuki Udon Shops in Kagawa, the dipping sauce is usually dashi sauce, which contains fish stock.
If you are Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian and the dipping sauce is a pure soy sauce, you can enjoy that Kama-Tama Udon.
Ask at the shop if the dipping sauce is pure soy sauce or if they can replace it with a pure soy sauce even if the soy sauce contains dashi stock.
Kama-age udon is similar to Kama-tama（釜たま）.
It comes with hot noodle right from boiling water, and the noodles come in the hot water that was used for cooking the same noodle in a massive pot.
Dipping sauce is usually made of fish stock, so it’s not suitable for vegetarian or vegans.
You dip the noodle in hot dipping sauce and eat it like this video in the Instagram post below .
As with other types of Sanuki Udon, put chopped spring onions in the dipping sauce or you can choose any tempuras you like as toppings.
The noodles are hot and the dipping sauce is hot too. So the noodle isn’t as firm as when eating Zaru or Bukkake and Kama-tama.
Unique Size/Measurement of Noodle in Kagawa
Size or measurement of noodles in Kagawa is different from other cities in Japan, so it’s very important to know the unique sizes/measurements of noodle when ordering in a shop.
There are usually three different sizes at Sanuki Udon Shops; small(Shou＝小); large(Dai＝大) ; extra large(Toku-Dai＝特大).
・When you order a small portion(Shou), you usually get a ball of noodles.
・When you order a large portion(Dai), you usually get two balls of noodles.
・When you order an extra large portion(Toku-Dai), you usually get 3 balls of noodles.
Note: I see many locals order a large portion(Dai＝大) but it’s too much. So, I usually order a small portion(Shou).
Unique Order System
There are mainly two order systems: table service and self service.
You don’t see many Sanuki Udon Shops offer table service, and most of the Sanuki Udon Shops in Kagawa have a unique self-service.
The self-service order system is quite complicated if you don’t know how to order.
I’m Japanese but I’m not from Kagawa, so I had difficulty ordering and didn’t know what to say at the beginning.
So I’ll explain the basic way to order at self-service Sanuki Udon Shops.
How to order Sanuki Udon at a self service Shop in Kagawa.
At the start of the order counter, there are trays that you will place your bowl on, so take your tray.
Then, the first person you talk to is a udon master who takes your order and prepares your favorite udon noodle as fresh as possible.
This is what you’d normally do at self-order counter in a Sanuki Udon Shop.
- Tell which Sanuki Udon you like.
- Tell the size of Udon Noodle you like.
- Tell whether you want your noodle hot or cold when there is a choice.
- Pick your favorite tempura or side dishes.
- Pay at the check out.
- Choose your favorite(free) condiments, self-serve free water or tea at the end of the counter.
Let’s break down each step for ordering and what to say in Japanese.
At Sanuki Udon Shops, noodles have to be served in the perfect state whether it’s firm or less firm depending on the type of the udon you order.
So, you will tell 1.2.3 first, and then the udon master prepares your noodle in the best possible way. After you receive the udon noodle you ordered, then you follow 4,5,6.
For example, if you wanna order Kake(かけ), small （小）, cold（冷たい）, you’d say:
How to order Kake
1:Kake（かけ）2: Shou（小＝Small Portion）3: Atsui-no-de（熱いので＝hot）, Onegai-Shimasu（お願いします＝Please）.
If you put them all together in Japanese: Kake, Shou, Atsui-no-de, Onegai-shimasu!
It’s very simple. You just have to say 1:what sort of udon, 2:what size you like,3:whether you like the noodle hot or cold, or whether you like the soup hot or cold if there is any choice.
How to order Kama-age
For another instance, if you wanna have Kama-age(釜揚げ), you’d say:
1:Kama-age(釜揚げ), 2:Dai(大＝large portion), Onegai-shimasu (Please).
If you put them all together in Japanese: Kama-age, Dai, Onegai-Shimasu.
In this case, there is no option for hot or cold to choose because Kama-age is supposed to be hot, so you can cut out 3.
How to order Kama-Tama
If you want to order Kama-Tama(釜たま), large(大), you’d say in Japanese:
1:Kama-Tama(釜たま),2: Dai(大＝Large portion), Onegai-Shimasu(Please). If you put them altogether in Japanese: Kama-Tama, Dai, Onegai-Shimasu.
Sanuki Udon is a Must Try Speciality of Kagawa.
If you are in Kagawa or if you are just traveling through Kagawa, I definitely want you to try Sanuki Udon. You can find a Sanuki Udon Shop pretty much at every corner in Kagawa prefecture.
You have to know that Sanuki Udon Shops close very early like at 2pm or so after lunch time. Most of them are not open for dinner.
It’s cheap, quick and delicious as well as top-quality, don’t miss out on the best udon noodle in Japan and the next Japanese noodle trend after Ramen!
Which restaurants do the locals recommend?
If you are staying mainly in Takamatsu, my blog post about Sanuki Udon restaurants in Takamatsu helps you find a good Sanuki Udon Restaurant, click 5 Must-Try Sanuki Udon Restaurants in Takamatsu.
Popular Sanuki Shops or authentic ones that are loved by locals are usually tucked away in a countryside and you can’t usually go with public transport.
Do you have your own favourite Sanuki Udon? If so, please leave your favourite Sanuki Udon Shop and why you liked it in the comment box below. That would be very helpful for other Sanuki Udon lovers!