We’ve never tried udon like this before. 

In Japan, different regions have been known to put their own unique twist on common noodle dishes, creating regional specialties that attract the interest of tourists and locals alike.

Over in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture, you’ll find a specialty udon dish called “himokawa”. Unlike regular udon, which is thick and round, this variety is thin, wide and flat, and it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. So when we were in the area recently, we headed over to Furukawa, a popular restaurant in the city, to check it out.

Once we were seated inside the restaurant, we took a look through the menu, which had an extensive list of options, which could be ordered as either udon (“うどん”), soba (“そば), or himokawa (“ひもかわ”).

It was hard to decide between all the tasty sounding offerings, but we eventually settled on a simple, no-fuss Mori Himokawa (“もりひもかわ” or “Large serving of Himokawa”) for 800 yen (US$6).

It was lunchtime on a weekday when we visited, and the restaurant was crowded with hungry diners so it took about 25 minutes for our order to arrive.

▼ It was well worth the wait, though, because this is what our lunch looked like.

It was quite the experience to finally be laying eyes on the mysterious himokawa specialty we’d heard so much about. It was even more spectacular than we’d imagined, because instead of ordinary udon, which usually looks like this:

▼ The Himokawa looked like this:

These were the widest noodles we’d ever seen, measuring around 12 centimetres (4.7 inches) across.

The large noodles had been carefully folded and placed on top of each other, creating a beautiful mound that looked fresh and delicious. To eat them, we just had to pour some of the broth into the side bowl and add a few green onions, before dipping the noodles in for a taste.

Lifting the noodles with chopsticks was an experience in and of itself.

We couldn’t help but smile at the curtain-like look of the noodles, and though we were tempted to shove the whole thing into our mouth, we decided  to follow the advice we’d been given by staff to fold it into a smaller square for ease of eating.

▼ That’s one big, thick noodle.

We’d also been told to soak the noodle in the sauce for a short while to allow it to soak up the broth, and we opted to add a dash of wasabi to the top for an extra hit of flavour.

Then it was time for a taste, and when we bit into the mound, we were surprised to find that the folded layers added an extra chewy texture to the noodle. In fact, it was so chewy it was kind of like biting into a tender piece of steak. It was a texture we soon grew used to, as it worked well with the dashi broth, creating a moreish, delicious combination.

Once we’d had our first noodle, we decided to get a bit adventurous with the next one, spreading it out a bit to see what it tasted like when flat and thin. It was a little more difficult to eat it this way, but the texture remained smooth and though it was less chewy, it was still delicious.

The himokawa has a completely different texture from the traditional udon we’re used to eating, but once we’d tried the first noodle, it was so great we couldn’t put our chopsticks down. There was something about the taste, texture, and the unusual look of it all that satisfied all our senses, and when we’d finished, our bellies were totally full and satisfied too.

Now we can’t wait to visit Gunma again to try himokawa with even more types of dipping broths, and that’s not all — there’s black udon and holy udon in the area too!

Restaurant information
Mendokoro Sakedokoro Furukawa Kuremutsu Aioi Store / めん処酒処ふる川 暮六つ 相生店
Address: Gunma-ken, Kiryu-shi, Aioi-cho 2-735-15
Open: 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (last entry at 9:15 p.m.) Opening times and last entry times are subject to change
Closed Mondays and the 4th Tuesday of the month (the following day if Monday is a holiday)

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