Part curry, part noodles, part Shepherd’s Pie, this is a unique dish worth travelling for.

In Japan, noodle dishes like ramen and soba seem to get all the glory in news and social media posts, but there’s another popular noodle equally deserving of attention, and that’s the thick wheat flour noodle known as udon.

Udon can be enjoyed in bowls of hot broth, or cold with various toppings, but one flavour that partners particularly well with it is curry. And while curry udon is a dish that’s commonly served around Japan, it’s not every day you get to see it looking perfectly white, so when we came across this signboard at Fukuoka Airport recently, we knew we had to give this unusual dish a try.

Fukuoka Airport is located in Hakata, which is popular for a number of local specialties, including tonkotsu ramen and Hakata udon. In fact, Hakata is often referred to as “the birthplace of noodles”, as a local priest once brought back recipes for soba and udon from China in the 13th century, and today a stone monument at Jotenji, the temple founded by the priest, is marked with the inscription “The place where udon and soba originated”. 

With such a revered history behind it, a bowl of Hakata udon should not be missed by travellers to the area, and Fukuoka Airport offers visitors the opportunity to try it at Yari Udon, a specialty udon chain that has four branches in Fukuoka.

One of Yari Udon’s famous dishes is simply named Hakata Yari Udon, and it comes served with a yari (spear) of tempura fried burdock root.

▼ This is the most popular dish at the Fukuoka Airport branch.

While we were tempted to try the burdock-topped noodles, we had our eyes set firmly on the unusual Shiroka, which combines the Japanese word for “white” (shiroi) with the first syllable of curry.

From time to time, white curry udon dishes like this pop up on social media accounts online, but we’d never seen one in real life, so we were keen to find out what it would taste like. And when it arrived, we were surprised to see that it looked just as beautiful as it did in the store’s promotional poster.

The combination of white and red, which are viewed as lucky colours in Japan, was gorgeous to look at, and upon closer inspection we could see that the white topping was actually a whipped mound of mashed potato. That got us really excited, as we’d never tried potatoes with udon before, and the mash was said to be whipped with fresh cream, promising to add a rich and hearty flavour to the noodles.

Curious to find out where the curry was hiding, we dove into the bowl with our chopsticks and pulled out a mound of gorgeous noodles, which released the tantalising aroma of spices.

This particular curry is said to be made with over 20 spices and a variety of vegetables, to give it a nice depth of flavour that pairs well with wheat noodles. In our opinion, the curry was excellent, but what really had us slurping up mouthful after mouthful was the combination of the roux with the noodles and mash. Hakata udon are known for being softer and more tender than regular udon, giving them a melt-in-the-mouth quality that was accentuated with the creamy potato whip.

The creamy potatoes brought the whole dish together perfectly, adding so much to the texture and overall flavour of the dish that we now want to add mash to all our udon meals from now on! It was so delicious it wasn’t long before we’d finished the whole thing, even slurping up some of the creamy curry broth at the end of the meal.

The white curry udon from Hakata Yari Udon is a fantastic dish that’s definitely worth travelling for. And if that’s got your belly craving more Hakata noodles, make like Sting and head to Horin in Fukuoka, which serves up some of the best ramen in the city.

Hotel information
Hakata Yari Udon Bettei Kukou Ten / 博多やりうどん別邸 空港店
Address: Fukuoka-ken, Fukuoka-shi, Hakata-ku, Kamiusui 348-1 Fukuoka Airport Domestic Terminal 3F
福岡県福岡市博多区上臼井348-1 福岡空港国内線ターミナルビル 3F
Hours: 7:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m.

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