Once we watched a movie called Udon, a highly sentamentalised film about a dude that goes home to his district and goes on a self-discovery journey involving the said noodles. After the movie all we wanted was a bowl of those fat, thick noodles in that wonderful broth. And then we discovered Sanuki Udon...
Chewy, fresh with superb broth
No 9, Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur.
2nd branch: Lot 125, 1st Floor Wisma Cosway, Jalan Raja Chulan, 50200 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03 7980 3704 (Taman Desa)
Cheap and delicious food
Can get a little packed during dinner
There is, to me, a holy trinity of Japanese noodles: ramen, soba, and udon. Up until now, udon has always ranked a little lower than the other two. Always a little too tough, swimming in uninspiring broth, it never really grabbed me. But tonight I am about to discover that the problem all along, was that I had never eaten fresh udon. And that, my friend, makes all the difference in the world.
Sanuki Udon is named after the Japanese province famed for udon, and is tucked into the quiet end of Taman Desa, a seemingly unlikely locale for great Japanese food. The owner, Seiji Fujimoto, was working for a department store when he was transferred here some years ago. He moved back to Japan and promptly quit his job. Looking for business opportunities and greener pastures, he decided to open an udon restaurant in Malaysia. He preferred Malaysia for its infinitely more relaxed pace than Japan, and realized there were no specialized udon places here. After taking a short course, he opened Sanuki Udon a little more than a year ago.
Prices here are so cheap, it's almost unbelieveable. A basic bowl of udon with broth or egg will set you back only RM5, while a bowl of tsuke men (udon loaded with vegetables) costs only RM10. My dinner companions and I order a variety of toppings and side dishes, sip on green tea and wait. The restaurant is quaint and cosy, filled with families, groups of girlfriends and sarariman (salarymen). Very quickly after, our food arrives.
One slurp and my eyes widen. Now I understand what the fuss is about. Smooth with a just-nice bite, it carries the flavor of the simple yet superb broth really well. The wakame adds a briny umami touch to the dish, so good I cannot stop drinking the broth. The dry “cha cheong” style udon is topped with sweet taucu stirred with chicken and onions, and served with fine strips of cucumber. Mix it all together and the cucumber softens into noodle-like strands, adding a textural dimension to an already exciting take on udon.
The side dishes are a crispy melange of awesome. Kakiage (battered vegetable fritters), ebi tempura (battered prawns) and karaage (deep-fried chicken) arranged neatly on a plate that we tear into with abandon. Everything is crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, though the ebi tempura was a touch floury. Then the yakitori arrives. Oh, yakitori. Skewers of momo (leg meat), kawa (skin), and kimo (liver) grilled with tare (soy sauce). Heavenly perfection. The liver is done just right, slightly pinkish in the middle with so much flavour my head is spinning.
The shop manager, Takeshi, says that Sanuki Udon has picked up speed a year on. With honest, cheap, and really good food, it's not hard to see why. It also renews my belief that cheap international fare in Malaysia is possible. The udon and yakitori are terrific, and I will be back soon to try their steamboat. If you're so inclined, you can cart back fresh frozen udon at RM20 for 1kg and whip up a bowl for yourself at home.
Now, where are my ramen and soba shops?