Udon noodles are thick wheat flour noodles with their roots in Japan. Unlike ramen, with its roots in China, Udon is home grown here in Japan. Where as Ramen spends its time hanging out with pork bones and oil Udon prefers the company of dashi, soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine used for cooking) and occasionally curry (drool). Udon is slightly … I guess helathier than ramen but there are all kinds of ways to bump up the caloric value of this meal, so dont you worry.
Sanuki Udon from Shikoku, served in Tokyo
Matsui Seimenjyo, which translates as Matsui Noodle Factory, is a medium sized noodle paradise in Yotsuya, rigth between Yotsuya San Chome station and Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station on the Marunouchi line. Matsui is a city in Shikoku famous for it’s Udon. This place specializes in fresh Matsui Udon Noodles and Udon noodles are always best fresh as opposed to dried. No surprises there.
Start with the Kake Udon
This place as of writing this did not appear to have an English menu, but that’s ok, we’ll get through this together. If you wan to enjoy the topping bar I suggest starting with a simple kake (kah-kay)udon. Kake Udon is udon served in it’s simplest form. It is served as simply udon noodles in a broth of dashi, soy sauce and mirin. Light and delicate, it is no wear near the level of salt and oil as a ramen, so don’t consider them the same at all.
Quick side note: When you enter, simply sit anywhere there is space, you can share the table. Menus are there and when you are ready walk over to the noodle bar and order. They wont be coming to your seat unless it’s to bring you the noodles.
Once you’ve got the noodles in hand you can head over to the toppings bar. See that little dish Takao is holding? Fill that with toppings, you dont need to add them directly to the noodle soup. I sugget using the dish as you can go back to your table and experiment. From left to right we have lemon wedges, tenkasu (which is just deep fried batter crumbs…YES!) scallions and minced ginger. So, already awesome. For shits and giggles they’ve also got tabasco, ajinomoto salt, and benishoga (pink pickled ginger). Back at the table there will also be soy sauce if you need a bit more salt. There you have it!
Udon has a wide variety of well matched side dishes
While ramen goes well with Gyoza, udon has a slightly wider team of side dishes to choose from. Foe example:
Kakiage, Japanese fritters.
There are a must with any udon. Tempura fried bits of shrimp, carrot and onions slammed toegther and served like a cylinder of Outback Awesome Blossom. Douse in soy sauce or sprinkle with salt or dump into your udon soup, you can’t go wrong.
Geiso, Japanese Jumbo Calamari
Do you like calamari? Well, good news. You can get a massive squid leg, tempura fried, to eat along with your udon noodles. I should have put something into this photo for reference because these were huge.
Udon, options Galore
Takao went slightly more traditional while I went a little nouveau. I love butter, I have no problem with it turning up in unexpected places (miso soup). So I got excited to see this on the menu. This is kamabata udon. The kama means “pot” and the “bata” means butter. It is was simply perfectly cooked, chewy udon noodles with a slice of butter, raw egg and pepper.
You then simply add a bit of soy sauce, stir and then top with green onions. This was so good and I am thinking to go get one right now.
Matsui Noodle Factory
So there you have it, Udon for the win. I strongly recommend this for lunch. It all clocks in at under or around 10 USD.
Go enjoy that topping bar!
Attractions near Matsui Seimenjyo: Yotsuya Toy Museum, Yotsuya Firefighters Museum, Shinjuku National Garden which is a MUST. Check here for info about having a picnic at Shinjuku National Garden.
Nearby Stations: Yotsuya San Chome (Marunouchi Line), Shinjuku Gyoen Mae (Marunouchi Line)