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Although it’s often overshadowed by ramen and soba, udon is the final member of the triumvirate of Japanese noodles. With a spongy, absorbent texture, it allows diners to really enjoy the flavor of the broth or dipping sauce it’s served with. This airier structure also means you might need a larger serving to get as full as you would from a meal of ramen or soba, however.

With this in mind, and very little in his stomach, our reporter Mr. Sato headed to a branch of popular udon chain Marugame Seimen, where he fearlessly ordered the largest bowl of udon on the menu, the Family Udon.

Marugame Seimen has several locations in Tokyo, often sharing space with other shops and restaurants in the same building. The Family Udon (kazoku udon in Japanese) is only available at stand-alone branches in the suburbs though, so we had to make the trip up north from Tokyo to Saitama Prefecture to try it. At first this system of menu discrimination seemed a little unfair, but it starts to make sense once you see the size of the Family Udon and take into consideration the price of housing in the Japanese city centers. If your family is so big that you need this much udon to feed them, you probably either have to live outside downtown, or you’re loaded enough that you have a private chef and don’t need to go out to restaurants for dinner.

▼ A shockingly large amount of that flour is going to go into our order

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Regular-sized orders at Marukame Seimen are handled under the “self-udon” system that’s the norm in Shikoku, the center of udon culture. Essentially cafeteria-style, you grab a tray and order at the counter. The noodles are scooped into a bowl and handed to you directly, after which you grab any pieces of tempura or side dishes you want from their racks, and then pay at the register. Because of the sheer volume of noodles that comprise the Family Udon, however, the order can’t fit on a tray, and also takes about 10 minutes to prepare. Instead, we were given a placard to set on our table while we waited for the waiter to deliver our food.

▼ A regular order of udon

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Ostensibly, “Family Udon” refers to the fact that it’s a big enough serving for a family to share. But when our server set the 60-centimeter (23.6 inch) diameter tub of noodles down in front of us, we realized an alternative interpretation is that the thing is easily big enough to give your baby a bath in after you finish eating.

▼ Wait, that doesn’t seem so big…

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▼ Oh…

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▼ Just a bit larger than the regular size

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It was so big that we were lost in thought for a few moments, much like how looking up at the stars in the night sky can force you to ponder your own comparative insignificance. This moment of reflection came at a high cost, however, because while we were lost in thought the udon started soaking up the hot water in the tub, swelling in size like a scene from a science class video on thermal expansion. With the noodles becoming progressively soggier, our reporter knew he had to act fast, but was prevented from diving into his meal by a crafty adversary.


As he bent over to scoop up the noodles, Mr. Sato was assaulted by the searing vapor rising from them. Adding insult to injury, each individual strand is extremely long. Dipping them into the accompanying container of sauce is one thing, but getting them from there into your mouth, without them slipping back into the tub and splattering the surrounding area with scalding water, is another. We’d come fully expecting for the size of the dish to be a challenge, but the mechanical difficulties of actually eating it came as a surprise.

That said, bit by bit our man made progress through the Family Udon. Unfortunately, the inability to just chow down at full speed meant the noodles soaked up even more moisture as he ate, which meant an even greater volume to consume.

▼ Time to get to work

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▼ Maybe there are some things man just wasn’t meant to do alone

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We’re beginning so see why you’re actually supposed to share this with family members or friends. Five of them, to be exact, as the Family Udon is six times the size of Marugame Seimen’s standard individual serving.

For other diners wishing to take on the Family Udon as a solo challenge, we recommend adding Marugame Seimen’s various complimentary condiments, such as green onions, ginger, and tempura flakes as you progress through your marathon meal. Varying the flavors will keep your palette stimulated, and if for some reason you feel like you can put away more than just the Family Udon in one sitting, you can always add a few pieces of tempura vegetables or shrimp to accomplish the same effect.

In the end, Mr. Sato was able to eat about three-fourths of the Family Udon, before finally taping out and bequeathing the rest of his noodles to accompanying correspondent Yoshio. Yoshio easily finished off the task, proving mathematically and unquestionably that a single RocketNews24 reporter can do the work of three ordinary men (as always, we choose to define “work” as “eating lots of inexpensive food”).

▼ OK kids, bath time!

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Photos: RocketNews24
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