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Don’t just try tonkotsu ramen! Be sure to taste Hakata udon

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Tonkotsu (pork belly and bone broth) ramen is famous as a local product of Hakata and Fukuoka, but actually Hakata udon is a well-known dish of Hakata with an ancient history. Hakata udon is different from udon from other regions, characterized by its soft and tender noodles. We’ll introduce the history, making process and flavor here.

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Jotenji, where udon is said to have originated (Hakata-ku, Fukuoka City)

Sanuki udon and Inaniwa udon are famous throughout Japan, but did you know that udon actually originated in Hakata in Fukuoka? A priest named Shoichi Kokushi (1202-1280) is said to have crossed over to China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and brought back the recipes for udon, soba, yokan (sweet jellied adzuki-bean paste), manju (a bun stuffed with sweetened bean paste) and other dishes. At Jotenji, the temple that Shoichi Kokushi founded, there is a stone monument that says “The place where udon and soba originated.”

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“Maruten udon”: the kneaded and deep fried fish cake called maruten is in a circular shape to match the bowl.

ごぼう天うどん【広報戦略26】

“Goboten udon”: there are differences in the gobou (burdock root) tempura for this udon between shops, but basically it is cut in large enough pieces to retain the texture.

Hakata udon is characterized by soft noodles and clear broth. The noodles might be thought to have no texture compared to other regions where the udon has strong texture, but this soft and tender texture closely matches the gentle flavor of the broth.

This broth has a gentle flavor from adding light soy sauce to soup stock made from ago (flying fish), dried anchovy, dried bonito, and kelp. When you slurp up the noodles along with this thinly flavored broth it has just the right flavor, and that is one way to eat it quickly.

Standard toppings include Goboten (gobo tempura) which has a satisfying texture and Maruten (deep fried fish cake). Many people order Kashiwameshi, rice cooked with pieces of chicken, to go with the udon.

【What is traditional Hakata udon?】

Hakata udon has continued to be loved by local people, and now many udon shops and udon restaurant chains can be found all over the town.Here we collected information about Inaba Udon, where the recipe is unchanged since it was founded in 1951, and will introduce how dedicated they are to its delicious flavor.

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Part of the preparation at Inaba Udon. They check the texture by pressing a foot down on it.

The noodle ingredients are wheat flour and salty water. The wheat that they use is from Kyushu. Wheat from Kyushu gives a softness to the texture, but the main reason is that local people are accustomed to its flavor. Inaba Udon President Takesaki says, “Wheat from Tohoku has a texture that is a little less smooth” (in some years there is not enough wheat grown in Kyushu, so in order to provide consistent flavor throughout the year, they use noodle wheat from Australia for half of their products).

The preparation for making noodles is completed after mixing the wheat and salty water and setting it for one night to make knead dough. The knead dough is passed through their equipment three times, slowly flattened and stretched. Then after it is cut, it is immediately boiled for 18 to 20 minutes, and enclosed in cold water. This final step is very important and can have a large impact on the flavor of the udon.

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Dried anchovy and herring to be used in soup stock

The soup stock that is the base for Inaba Udon broth uses dried anchovies and herring, smoked mackerel, dried bonito, and natural kelp. Then they add the Maruhara Soy Sauce from Hita, Oita Prefecture that they have used for flavoring since the beginning to the soup.

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Using a tokkuri (ceramic sake bottle) to pour heated broth on boiled noodles

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Inaba Udon’s kake-udon (¥380).

The previously boiled noodles are ready to be heated up and served when ordered. Inaba Udon’s Hakata udon, prepared the same way it always has been, will definitely give you an unforgettable flavor.

There are many such favorite udon shops in Fukuoka, each with their own flavor. When you visit Fukuoka, be sure to eat Hakata udon.

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