When my mother first introduced me to cold pasta with pesto as a tasty antidote to the summertime heat, it was an epiphany to me. It is the first food I remember that was meant to not only give sustenance but also to cool. Tabbouleh was probably next. Japanese cold zaru soba and zaru udon is another wonderful summer dish meant to offer respite from the sultry summer heat. And Kyoto’s Tsunamichi offers my very favorite zaru udon. If you are in town in the hot months and like noodles, don’t miss this one!
Udon for Summer: Zaru Toro Udon at Tsunamichi (綱道のざるとろうどん)
This is a true gourmet masterpiece, country-style. It is just the right meal for Japanese summer!
Noodles: Dense, thick udon noodles, somehow both soft and firm, with lots of earthy, wheaty flavor served cold on a woven bamboo zaru (sieve) inset in a lacquered tray.
Dipping ‘Sauce’: The noodles are dipped into a mixture of grated yamaimo (Japanese mountain yam), raw egg, chopped scallions, fresh grated (real) wasabi and tsuyu. Tsuyu is a mixture of dashi, soy sauce and mirin.
Tsunamichi’s dipping sauce mixture is quite special, it is surely the richest I have had. The grated yamaimo is called tororo and unlike the very gooey (and cheaper) nagaimo usually used for tororo, it is extremely thick. The raw egg adds a luxurious creaminess, the fresh wasabi adds plenty of zing and the tsuyu is quite salty owing to plenty of soy sauce used.
The combination of this heavy, creamy dipping sauce and the heavy-duty country style noodles far surpasses any zaru udon or zaru soba dish I have encountered.
I am not a fan of Tsunamichi’s soba, it is very rough and thick and for me somehow lacks much taste. If you live in Kyoto and can visit Tsunamichi easily and like soba, by all means give it a try and tells us what you think in the comments section below. If you are just in town for a few days and want to try Tsunamichi, I highly recommend the udon over the soba.
Zaru toro udon costs 850 yen – and is quite filling.
More about Tsunamichi and Udon Country
It is mid-summer and hot, hot, hot in Kyoto now. The Gion Festival is over and that means the rainy season is over too. (The rainy season never fails to end the day or so before the Gion Festival Junko (procession) on the morning of July 17.) This is the season for cold and cooling meals.
Back in February of 2008 Miwa and I reviewed Tsunamichi’s very popular winter dish, piping hot miso simmered udon, (miso nikomi udon) and I eat it quite often in the cold months. As much as I like that one, I realized that I like this summer even more, much more.
Tsunamichi doesn’t make Kyoto-style noodles, no, there are thick, heavy and quite rough hewn, actually with more than a few noodles being too short or too thick. Never mind that, the taste is way over the top! Surely this is a dish for foodies not available abroad, not even available most anywhere in Japan!
Tsunamichi is a noodle shop run by a man from Kagawa prefecture in Shikoku. Sanuki is the classical name for this region and Sanuki is udon country! And the proprietor makes his udon, called undon in his dialect, by hand! (His soba too.)
Our previous ‘Udon for Winter‘ article about Tsunamichi has lots more information about udon culture in Shikoku so be sure to check it out!
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English menu: none
English website: none
Price: 700 – 1,300 yen.
Location and Access: Bus, Subway. Tsunamichi is located about a 3 minute walk east from Kitaoji Bus Terminal, Kitaoji Subway Station and Kitaoji Vivre Shopping Center.
Address: Kyoto-shi Kita-ku Kitaoji-dori Karasuma Higashi-hitosuji Kita-iru Kitakamifusa-cho 39-2 (京都市北区北大路通烏丸東一筋北入ル北上総町39-2)
Near Sightseeing Spot: Daitokuji Temple (10 min. bus)
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