Wednesday, August 8, 2007


My father is from the southern tip of Okayama prefecture in central-east Japan, right across from the large island Shikoku and home to the Mecca of sanuki udon, Kagawa prefecture. Udon are fat white noodles made of flour and often served in a lightly seasoned fish broth, served hot or cold. As with many other foods and dishes in Japan, the way they are served/prepared/made differ by region, and sanuki udon is thought to be the simplest and often best way to eat udon, especially by udon aficianados. Being as flexible as he is, my dad does justice to both the die-hard sanuki men (oh, ha ha! Men means noodles in Japanese!) and the city-slicker type at his udon restaurant in Akasaka, Hinaya.

Photo courtesy of Metropolis

Kijōyu udon is an orthodox and old-skool way to eat sanuki udon. It consists simply of freshly boiled noodles (dunked in ice water to as soon as they're just the right state of al dente to keep the koshi*), and garnished with a raw egg yolk, a splash of a soy sauce mixture and a few spice condiments called yakumi, like chopped scallions or sesame seeds, and finito. Break the yolk, toss it with the noodles and it's almost like a Japanese carbonara.

* Koshi refers to the elasticity of Japanese noodles, describing the state when it satisfies all of the following: firmness, suppleness and bouciness, especially as they go down your throat, as you don't "chew" Japanese noodles so much as swallow them. Scout's honor. Actually, udon is much more about the texture than the flavor.

Hinaya also serves it with natto, or fermented beans, for those of you who can stomach it. For me, this is the perfect breakfast. Egg! Noodles! Natto! What's not to like?

But of course my favorite all-time Hinaya udon (and the shop's #1 menu item) is the curry udon. The only vegetables that go into the roux are onions and carrots--which are sauteed until they are soft and sweet, and then pureed. The puree, curry spices and water are boiled for hours until the roux is rich and thick, at which time she meets her soulmate, the smooth and elegant otsuyu, or dipping sauce, and poured over oodles of noodles. It's a match made in heaven, and if not heaven, at least the greater Tokyo area. Served with a soft-boiled onsen tamago egg, yakumi and toasted abura age (fried tofu, prounounced "a-gé"), it's addictive.

(Does this portraiture shot convey my love for this dish? I love you, curry udon.)

Other popular udon are goma dare udon, or cold udon with a savory and creamy sesame dipping sauce, and kama tama udon, served piping hot in the water they were boiled in. It's hard-core and authentic. Or something. Lunch sets at Hinaya are ¥900 (including your choice of udon, the daily rice, and two side dishes).

Oh, and by the way, my dad makes everything fresh, including the udon noodles. From the flour to the salt to the water to the width they are cut, they all have to pass dad's test, every day. The noodles themselves are vegan--flour, salt and water are the only three ingredients that go in.

生醤油 kijōyu
コシ koshi
薬味 yakumi
納豆 natto
おつゆ otsuyu
温泉たまご onsen tamago
油揚げ abura age
ゴマだれ goma dare

Hinaya (日南家)
2-14-7 Akasaka, Minato-ku
T/F 03-3583-0178


Courtney said...

It's funny -- a student of mine today told me he was going to Kagawa specifically to eat Sanuki udon.

I will have to try out the restaurant, I rarely eat udon and the curry udon looks lovely.

Miss Ai said...

Evenings 5-8pm on weekdays except Thurs and except this week.
Please do stop by!!

Cat Jackson said...


Miss Ai, your dad's restaurant sounds lovely. If/when we ever go to Japan, I will seek it out! The dishes sound so comforting.

I just have a few (strange?) questions: how warm is the Kijōyu udon? I ask because of the egg; is it added cold, or warm? Do the noodles cook it once the yolk is broken? I'd love to try to make this dish at home (the textures sound delightful), and I want to get it as right as I can.

Miss Ai said...

You mean when you come to Japan, we will go together ;) Yum yum!

Questions are super welcome!

Kijōyu is usually cold (at Hinaya, too) though some places do do it hot. As you can imagine, since both noodles and yolk are cold, the egg remains raw. But a fresh yolk makes for a rich, delicious sauce or condiment, like on top of hot rice, over pasta, on pizza---and of course in udon too:)

And yes, if you serve the noodles hot, they will cook the egg just like you guessed--actually there's another udon dish that does that, called kamatama! This one is served piping hot so once the raw egg is dropped in, it gets cooked.

Cat Jackson said...

Yay! Thanks for all the info! I'll be sure to try using fresh yolks as a condiment.

I've recently found out that I may be (insert sad violin music here) allergic to cow's milk. So anything "rich" or "delicious" that doesn't involve cream sounds great to me! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh the restaurant belongs to your dad?

I would love to try it out, if I'm ever in Japan.

nice picture of the interior room.
Whose room?


Miss Ai said...

Hi -Js-

It's a photo of the restaurant. Hope you'll be able to visit sometime!

hanns;bumbum said...

hi miss ai,
my BFF, my cousin and i will be sure to put this on our list of must-haves when we drop by tokyo early next year ;) looks yummy!

Julie said...

This looks delicious!

Can you please tell me the Japanese name for the curried udon?

We are coming to Japan next month and hope to find this beautiful place and try this dish. Our Japanese language skills are very poor but our appetites are good.
thank you,

Miss Ai said...

Hi guys!

Unfortunately, this branch is now closed :(

The new restaurant is called "Sawa" and it is in Shimokitazawa. The Address is 5-32-7 Daizawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. The curry I recommend is called "Curry Udon" in Japanese.


Julie said...

Thank you kindly, Miss Ai. We will definitely try it!

Julie and Bill