B-kyu Gurume: Suttate Udon from Kawajima!

Are you still craving Utsunomiya gyoza? from our B-kyu gurume post last month? Well, don’t worry because we’ve got an amazing new dish this month – suttate udon – and after you read all about it, you’ll be craving this dish, too!

Suttate udon hails from Kawajima in Saitama Prefecture, an area just north of Tokyo.

Kawajima is a fertile plain banded by the Ichino, Arakawa, Iruma and Toki Rivers. It’s known for its beautiful landscape and rice, tea and sesame farms. In this area, each season is exaggerated – cold weather is icy, rains are torrential and hot weather is sweltering.

It’s during the hot weather months that Kawajima’s signature B-kyu gurume dish – suttate udon – is popular. The dish consists of fresh, bouncy udon noodles dipped into a suttate dipping sauce. The sauce is what makes it special! Suttate sauce is made with freshly ground ingredients, often prepared at the table. Sesame seeds are ground in a suribachi using a surikogi, or a Japanese-style mortar and pestle. Once the sesame seeds are finely ground and fragrant, miso , thinly sliced cucumbers, finely chopped onions, aromatics and herbs such as ginger and shiso leaves are added to the mix and pounded to form a paste. And to the paste… cold, cold water…perfectly ready to dip in udon noodles!

Hungry yet?

Suttate udon has a beloved history in the Kawajima region. The wheat for the udon noodles and sesame for the sauce were locally cultivated. The nutrients in the ingredients were replenishing. And the cold dish was eaten during the hot summer months by local farmers to beat heat exhaustion from their labor. Inexpensive and locally-produced, suttate udon was almost exclusively prepared at home, with the sauce originally made with just cold water, miso and ground sesame. Even the name is local term, a slurred form of suritate, which means “freshly mashed.”

In 2008, the Kawajima Chamber of Commerce wanted to enter suttate udon in the 4th Annual Saitama Local Street Food Championship. They asked a local chef and restauranteur, Koji Adachi, to come up a new recipe. And his recipe for using dashi in the sauce instead of cold water made all the difference. The dish won fourth place in the competition, becoming an established B-kyu gurume favorite!

After the competition, word of suttate udon spread around Saitama Prefecture and of course, to the rest of Japan.

We love udon noodles, and make the dough in our breadmakers. They’re so wonderful to eat and we hope you try them with homemade suttate sauce!

And as always, share your photos with us on Instagram!

B-kyu Gurume: Utsunomiya Gyoza!

Hi, Zo fans!? Welcome back to another B-kyu Gurume blog post!? Today, we’re featuring the beautiful city of Utsunomiya and its delicious cuisine.

Utsunomiya is a city in Tochigi Prefecture, just a bit north of Tokyo.

It’s gorgeous, charming, and home of juicy Utsunomiya?gyoza.? Yup.? Those fantastic Japanese dumplings that are oh-so-delicious steamed, pan-fried, boiled, and even deep fried.? We’re checking out Utsunomiya?gyoza this month, and promise that by the end of this post, you’ll want to cook up a batch yourself!

Utsunomiya City became the home of?gyoza through a few quirks of historical fate combined with concerted effort by city businesses and associations.? Utsunomiya had a base for an army division that previously operated in north-east China and brought back?gyoza forbearers, Chinese?jiaozi?dumplings.? Then the?jiaozi dumplings were “Japanized” and made into the softer, smaller gyoza we know and love today.

Well, it turned out that?gyoza?were great to eat no matter the season!? In cold weather,?gyoza were comforting boiler and served with a broth.? In hot weather, pan-fried with a dipping sauce and a cold beer was the way to go.? And this worked out perfectly in landlocked Utsunomiya City, which experiences both weather extremes.? Gyoza became extremely popular in the city, becoming a local staple and economic driver.

These?gyoza?helped revitalize the city when the other economic pillar collapsed. During the late 1980’s, Utsunomiya City was known as a place to mine oya stone, a beautiful stone quarried from deep in the earth and used for buildings all over Japan. A quarry cave collapsed in 1989, effectively depressing the stone industry in Utsunomiya City. City restaurateurs, business associations and the media decided to highlight their regional gourmet cuisine – gyoza – to revitalize the city’s economy.

And luckily, we all benefit from their plan!

Utsunomiya gyoza come in many sizes and with multiple types of fillings. Commonly, they are filled with regionally sourced pork, cabbage, chives, garlic and salt. When combined and finished into shape, Utsunomiya gyoza are steamed, boiled, pan-fried or deep fried to the diner’s liking.

While they are typically served with a dipping sauce, Utsunomiya gyoza are so flavorful that many enthusiasts prefer eating them without any condiments, letting the juice from the filling permeate their taste buds instead…we’re craving some already!

Utsunomiya gyoza can luckily be found all over Japan, thanks to concerted marketing and distribution efforts by leading businesses in Utsunomiya City. And again, we happily benefit from their plan!

We love these dumplings and are always up for making them using our Gourmet Sizzler? Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10). Do you make your own dumplings at home? Share your recipe and tag us with #zojirushi on Instagram!? And don’t forget to let us know Zo fans, how do you like your dumplings?? Steam, boiled, pan-fried, or deep fried?? Let us know in the comments.

A Food Lover’s Tour of Japan – Kagawa and Sanuki Udon

It’s the perfect time of year for luscious noodles in hot, savory broth. And Kagawa Prefecture, famous for its udon, is our destination this month!

Kagawa Prefecture lies on the northeastern part of Japan’s Shikoku Island. Its southern border is the Sanuki Mountain Range and the Seto Inland Sea borders the north. In between the mountains and the sea is a fertile plain of land where cotton, sugar, salt and wheat grow, and where cities famed as centers of trade and transportation have flourished since feudal times.

Takamatsu is the capital of the prefecture, serving as a hub for the rail system throughout Shikoku Island and the administrative, economic and cultural center of Kagawa Prefecture. In feudal times, Takamatsu Castle served as the area’s citadel and was surrounded by Ritsurin Garden and near to Honen-ji Temple. The old town is now surrounded by the modern city, and is a wonderful area to visit while journeying along the Kagawa coast, where one can visit Yashima, a 961-foot high lava plateau with breathtaking views of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Of the 116 islands in the Seto Inland Sea, Shodoshima Island is famous for its olive groves! This small island enjoys a surprising Mediterranean climate, making it ideal for cultivating olives, herbs and citrus fruit. And the island is also home to sheer cliffs and scenic valleys, making it a nature lover’s paradise.

The view from Kotohira Shrine

Because of the prefecture’s central location and access to various trade routes, many influences helped shape the culture of the area. Buddhism with a special emphasis on protecting sailors and travelers thrived here. Konpira-san, the protector god of sailors, is revered at the Kotohira Shrine. The shrine is located half-way up the side of Mt. Zozu and visitors must climb 1,368 steps to reach the inner shrine. If you can’t climb yourself, you can hire a palanquin to carry you! No matter how you get to the top, the view is worth it as you can see across the Sanuki Plain all the way to the sea, and can visit the treasure and art-filled rooms of the complex.

History, nature and religion aren’t the only attractions in Kagawa. Naoshima Island boasts world-class art, architecture, literary culture and environmental stewardship. The small island inspired Raymond Benson’s The Man with the Red Tattoo and the stunning art collections at the Benesse House and Chichu Art Museum, both of which were designed by world-famous architect Tadao Ando. Not to be missed are traditional bunraku puppet shows and a stay at a ryokan or minshuku.

Takamatsu Castle

Regardless of where you visit in Kagawa Prefecture, you’ll be amazed at the delicious offerings of world-class udon. Japanese udon are thick wheat noodles that are cooked until chewy and firm, then served in a soy-based soup. Udon is said to have been introduced to Japan from China. Today, many types of udon are made throughout Japan, with regional specialties adding unique and gourmand options to menus across the country.

Udon can be prepared and served in numerous ways, but at the heart of the preparation is the careful boiling of the noodles in hot water. After cooking, the noodles are served either hot in a tsuyu, or soup broth, or cold, zaru-style with a side of dipping sauce or bukkake-style with a chilled broth and toppings of scallions, ginger, sesame, nori seaweed and powdered chili pepper. Regional udon recipes include adding tempura, kakiage, raw eggs or tofu skin to the dish, and two very popular variations are to serve the noodles in a Japanese curry or as a stir-fried yaki-udon dish.

Chilled zaru udon

There are so many varieties and combinations of how to prepare, serve and eat udon! In Kagawa, where a regional specialty called “sanuki udon” is so loved that the prefecture has been nicknamed the “Udon Prefecture”!

Sanuki udon got its name from the ancient ancestral name of the prefecture, called Sanuki. In this version of udon, the noodles are boiled in hot water and then removed from the cooking liquid. They are then added to a hot tsuyu broth and topped with an egg and finely chopped scallions. Udon is such a famous dish in Kagawa that “udon meguri”, or udon restaurant crawls, are common activities for locals and tourists alike. Each restaurant features their own take on sanuki udon, with some making tsuyu with their own special recipes and others offering unique and varied toppings. Most people can’t eat more than what they sample at three restaurants, but each day offers a new and interesting group of venues!

We love udon so much that we’ve features many recipes on our website. Whether or not you can sample authentic sanuki udon, try our recipes for Chilled Zaru Udon, Homemade Teuchi Udon, Hearty Tempura Udon, and Stir-Fried Yaki Udon. Each and every one of these dishes is sure to become a favorite!

We know you’ll love udon as much as we do, and can’t wait to see your comments below!