(Stripes Japan)

Japan, aka the nation of noodles, offers more than just ramen. In The Land of the Rising Sun you can taste virtually any type of noodle – hot or cold, white or grey, flour or rice, and with or without broth. Traditional udon noodles can be enjoyed with its springy or even sticky texture, while soba offers a chewy texture and wonderful aroma. Plus, each region twists the variety of noodles with its own local flavor. Here are some of my favorite noodle dishes and places to try them. While located in Japan, make sure you find your way to at least one of these noodle joints.

Kurayoshi (Tsuyu Yakisoba)

Tsuyu Yakisoba is a popular local dish created by Kuroishi residents. It features thick and chewy noodles with shrimp and mushroom tempura in soy-sauce based broth. They then perfect the dish by putting some Worcestershire sauce on top. I recommend sampling the noodles with broth before mixing in the sauce, so you can appreciate what the Worcestershire adds to the taste. It is really impressive as the taste of broth gradually got thicker and more bitter which made the flavor of shrimp and mushroom tempura stand out. The chewy texture of thick noodles go along well with the broth, as well. You can sample tasty tsuyu yakisoba at Kurayoshi, located in a building built nearly 200 years ago (2-hours from Misawa AB). This eatery offers a variety of other local dishes, such as tempura, sushi and shabu shabu, as well.

Location: 13 Yokomachi, Kuroishi City Aomori Prefecture; Tel: 0172-53-2111

Yajiguwa (Okinawa Soba)

Okinawa Soba is made up of thick, springy wheat noodles that resemble udon, broth flavored with kelp, bonito flakes and pork, and topped with fish cake, sliced scallion and a thick slice of stewed pork belly. Located in Nakadori district of Tsurumi City aka “Little Okinwa,” (15 miles south of central Tokyo), Yajiguwa is the oldest Okinawan restaurant in the district. Its popular Okinawa soba noodles contain sliced bacon, fish cake and spring onion. The white broth is flavored with pork and fish and goes well with homemade soft and chewy noodles. The restaurant has used its original recipe for more than 60 years. The restaurant also offers its popular goya set and tofu champuru.

Location: 3-72-2 Nakadori, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tel: 045-506-5754.

Araki Soba (Soba)

Soba is a popular Japanese noodle dish made from buckwheat flour or a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours. They are served either chilled with a dipping broth or in hot soup. Murayama City is known for many great soba joints packed in the area called “soba road”. Among the many soba joints in the district, Araki Soba is considered the best, and was named by prominent French gourmet project, “La Liste,” as one of the world’s top 1,000 restaurants in 2015. The dark grey, thick soba noodles come in a long wooden box, which is done because locals usually ate soba by sharing them in the box after their work on the farm. It was indeed the hardest and most chewy noodle I have ever experienced in my life. At first, I felt as if I wasn’t going to be able to finish, but as I got used to it, I became obsessed with its authentic taste and sweet aroma, and finished them off in no time. The broth, made from stock of herring, really went well with the extremely chewy noodle.

Location: 65 Ookubo-ko, Murayama City, Yamagata Prefecture, Tel: 0237-54-2248

Sai Gon (Pho)

Pho is a popular Vietnamese street noodle dish made up of chicken-flavored broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat (either beef or chicken). You can sample authentic noodles at Sai Gon in the multicultural Ichodanchi Housing Complex, 20-minutes from NAF Atsugi. This restaurant offers genuine and authentic tastes of South Vietnam. With many popular dishes, such as cha gio (fried spring roll), pho bo (beef pho) and banh xeo (crispy pancake), pho ga (chicken pho), Sai Gon exemplifies the traditional tastes of South Vietnam. Although it simple and less salty and did not have a particularly strong flavor that Indian, Tai and Korean cuisines have, mixed herbs and spicy sauce made the mild flavor intense. The broth is extremely smooth and full-bodied – various fragrant herbs combined with the gentle flavor of chicken help make it a really sophisticated soup, which reminded us of sampling superb consommé soup at a 5-star French restaurant.

Location: 3173 (1F) Kami-Iidamachi, Izumi-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Tel: 045-805-6081

Ichiraku Shokudo (Hirado Champon)

Ingredients for champon, a popular dish in the Nagasaki region, differ depending on the district. The dish typically features chewy noodles, fried pork, seafood and vegetables. Hirado City offers its local champon with extremely thick and chewy noodles, along with tasty pork-bone broth with “ago” (flying fish), squid, clam and local vegetables. Located near the center of Hirado City, the 85-year-old Ichiraku Shokudo will serve you up original Hirado Champon noodles at a reasonable price. Sample its signature “Ago Champon,” for an impressive dish.

Location: 77 Kihikidacho, Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture, Tel: 0950-22-2269

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