Japan from the inside out

Udon summit

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ONE of the students in my university class this spring had a running joke with me about what kind of noodles we would eat at the school cafeteria for an après-class snack. She insisted on udon, but I went for the soba.

I like both, but prefer soba because it has more body. But that puts me in the minority in Japan; most people like both, but prefer udon. Quick classroom surveys of my students over the years reveal that 80-90% raise their hands for udon first. It’s also the preferred late-night snack of serious drinkers on their way home from the tavern.

Thus it wasn’t any surprise that despite bad weather and a shortened schedule due to an approaching typhoon, the Second National Local Udon Summit attracted 2,000 people in just 90 minutes in Higashiomi, Shiga. National local means that it was a nationwide contest to determine the best regional recipe. Whether it truly determined the national champion is open to question, as there were 11 entrants from six prefectures, but the event was only in its second year.

The noodle soup champion was determined by the visitor-diners at the site, as shown in the photo above. They sampled as many of the entries as they could and voted for their favorites. The winner was the Komatsu Niku (Beef) Udon from Komatsu, Ishikawa. There are several varieties of Komatsu udon, whose stock is made with a traditional recipe using local fish. The beef variety adds meat from local cows into the broth.

Second prize was awarded to the Toyohashi Curry Udon from Toyohashi, Aichi. You guys in the back row can cool it with the sniggering — if curry udon soup wasn’t a palate pleaser, it wouldn’t have won a prize. It also wouldn’t be enshrined in the Udon Museum. Besides, an Aichi company makes a commercial variety and sells it for JPY 400 a pack.

And here’s a short Youtube with a slide show of the cornucopia of Komatsu udon, including the summit champ. I’m not sure about the story behind the accompanying song, but I’m guessing it was an old tune about sumo with the lyrics changed to praise the delights of the local cuisine.

4 Responses to “Udon summit”

  1. J said

    I think it really depends on the region. Soba is much more difficult to make well than udon, anyone with flour, water and a plastic bag could potentially make udon noodles. If you head towards shinshyu, people will probably choose soba but be really really picky and particular about it. Kansai-jin will probably always choose udon though! Although, I have to admit, if I were stuck outside of kansai, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy udon.

    Man, now I’m craving… D:
    J: Another reason I’m less interested in udon is that I grew up eating home made chicken soup with home made egg noodles (which I can make too). The noodles are the same as udon but have eggs in them, which gives them more body. Udon noodles seem thin to me.


  2. toadold said

    The traditional food or soup for drinkers is hot,salty, greasy, spicy, and has a high water content, the carb content is usually balanced with some complementary protein, egg, beef, pork, or fish, Soba noodles, since they are made with buckwheat have low glycemic index and more vitamins than the other noodles but oh boy the soup base they are served with. High in salt and sugar and seems to be perceived as a hot weather dish and served cold. I’m tempted to get some and see if I could make a decent hot broth for them.
    T: Eating soba in hot broth without any sugar (and little salt) is how I usually eat it, more than the cold variety, and I eat it in restaurants as much as at home. There are probably plenty of recipies available on the net.


  3. J said

    Yeah I can understand that. Not much can beat the texture of good soba ^_^.

  4. Ken said

    Around 90% of buck wheat in Japan is from Hokkaido and so Soba itself is a little delicious in eastern Japan.
    On the other hand, the darker and saltier soup in eastern Japan can be allowed for Soba but too strong for Udon.
    Only the lighter soup with complex broth can match Udon and you may choose both of Soba and Udon in western Japan.
    The sense for the slightly bitter flavor and peculiar aroma of Soba are not developed in Kids yet.
    So Japanese adults who prefer Udon are teased as ‘Okochama no Kuchi’, literally the taste of kids.
    Therefore, you guys are authentic Japanese gourmet. Btw, slurping is to enjoy the delicate scent.

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