What is the most beloved noodle dish in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture?
Most people might answer it is ramen, because of its famous “Hakata Ramen”. Hakata ramen is one of the most famous ramens in Japan with no doubt, but locals enjoy other noodles as much as ramen.
That is udon.
Udon eaten in Hakata is especially called “Hakata Udon” or “Fukuoka Udon”. The uniqueness of Hakata udon is its texture. Usually, Japanese udon has a chewy texture inside, called “Koshi” and is regarded better with more Koshi. But Hakata udon is not like this. The noodle of Hakata udon is very soft which is unusual in Japanese udon.
First of all, you may want to know that Hakata is regarded as the first place to start eating or making udon in Japan. History says that one famous monk brought the technique to make wheat into flour from China and started making udon in Hakata. At that time, Hakata was a city of tradesmen who were so busy all the time. They always needed something that can be eaten quickly, so owners of udon restaurants decided to boil all of the stock udon noodles at one time to shorten the time. The udon noodles kept for a while after boiling came softer than that they were just gotten out of the pot. Thanks to the length of time until it was served and softness, they could eat up them quickly.
That is how Hakata udon became softer than ordinal udon.
By the way, noodles of Hakata ramen are very thin and they are required a very short boiling time for the same reason. Can you imagine how busy those who worked as the tradesmen in Hakata at that time were?
Topped with Maruten, meat and green onions
Hakata udon is often served with some toppings like Goboten (tempura of burdock root), seasoned meat, Kamaboko, Tenkasu (bits of deep-fried tempura batter) and some chopped green onions. If you want to add more tempura, you can order as you like. One of the most popular tempura for Hakata udon is called “Kakiage”. It is deep-fried various vegetables and seafood used and mixed together in tempura batter. If you feel like trying something special in Hakata, “Maruten” is worth trying. The word “Maruten” can be separated into “Maru” and “Tempura”, meaning circle-shaped tempura, but this is not ordinal tempura that can be found anywhere in Japan. In addition, tempura in Hakata has two meanings. One is the ordinal tempura, a deep-fried ingredient covered with tempura batter. The other one is a deep-fried fish paste. Maruten is the latter. It has a deep flavour of fish and fits perfectly with Hakata udon. Please try it if you have a chance!