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Udon at Hanamaru

Udon is a thick wheat based noodle that is served in a variety of different ways at Hanamaru Udon (English on signs read ‘Manmaru’), a fast food Udon chain that operates 187 restaurants throughout Japan and serves over 2.5 millions customers each month.

Noodles are a significant part of the diet in Japan and there are three different kinds of noodles.  The most commonly known noodle in the west is Ramen, then there is Soba, a thin noodle made from buckwheat and wheat flour, and finally, my favorite, Udon, which is a thick and substantial noodle made from wheat flour that can be traced back more than a thousand years in Japan.

Udon can be served either in a hot soup or cold, dipped into a sauce called mentsuyu.  Eating udon is a healthy alternative to traditional western fast food as the noodles contain no fat – the only ingredients are wheat, salt and water.   The soup base and dips are usually a mix of soy sauce (shoyu), rice wine vinegar (mirin) and other low fat ingredients.  In addition to udon, Hanamaru offers a self serve tempura bar, curry & rice and a beef bowl. 

You can get lunch or dinner for two for between Y1,000 and Y1,500 and the service is quick.  Don’t be discouraged if you encounter a line – it will move fast and you will have more time to decide which tempura you want with your udon!

The Hanamaru in my neighborhood offers an English menu but even if the one you run across doesn’t you can decide by looking at the picture menu in Japanese.  If you aren’t too adventurous stick to kake (plain) or bukake (with lemon).  I had never tasted bukake before and it’s become one of my new favorites! 

So, the next time you are hungry for something healthy and inexpensive, yet tasty, look for the Hanamaru/Manmaru sign (upper right) and I don’t think that you will be disappointed.

Photo Credit:  Personal Collection