restaurant_menu Eat & Drink

Musashino Udon Mugiwara

place3 minute walk from Exit A6 of Ojima Station

Mouthwatering Udon at Musashino Udon Mugiwara

Published: September 29, 2017

Musashino is the name generally associated with the area inbetween western Tokyo outside the 23 special wards and southwestern Saitama Prefecture. Saitama is the second largest producer of wheat in Japan and Musashino is the home of Musashino Udon, a variety of the thick, wheat flour noodles known as udon in Japanese.



Today I visited Musashino Udon Mugiwara on Sun Road Nakanohashi Shopping Street near Ojima station in Koto-ku. Proprietor Norio Suzuki and his charming spouse were my guides to this local treat.



“It’s country food, a kind of home-cooking with no set rules,” says Mr. Suzuki. “The area has long grown wheat instead of rice, so udon became a mainstay with each household making its own noodles. We use 100% local wheat and mix it with salt water. Then the kneading starts, first with the hands and then with the feet. The dough goes into a cloth and then we tread on it, just like how you might make wine. After that, it goes into a cooler where it sleeps overnight.”



“In the morning we take out the ball of dough and get to work with the rolling pin and the board, rolling and folding again and again. Our noodles contain some whole-wheat flour, which makes them chewier and adds more texture. Musashino Udon isn’t smooth and slippery like Sanuki Udon (a famous type of udon from the Shikoku region); it has a wheat-y aroma and harder texture,” he says.



The sliced noodles are gently slipped into the fiercely boiling water. “It’s hot work in summer,” says Mr. Suzuki, “with temperatures reaching well over 40°C all day behind the counter here. We drink a lot of sports drinks!”



After boiling the noodles for around ten minutes, Mr. Suzuki whips them out with these rather stylish (and expensive) nets. He then rinses them in cold water…



Before washing them again, this time in iced water. The iced water washes off the starch, prevents the noodles from cooking further and adds extra toothsome consistency.



Musashino Udon is traditionally served cold with a bowl of hot soup for dipping. The signature soup contains pork, negi green onions and deep-fried tofu slices (aburaage) in a strongly flavoured broth. Mr. Suzuki uses a dark Kanto area style broth made from bonito, mackerel and top-quality kelp known as ma-kombu in Japanese. The noodles have a nice aroma from the wheat. They are thick, chewy and have a firm texture, unlike the smoother noodles favoured in other areas. The soup has a powerful umami flavour, rich and savoury. One can easily imagine farm workers returning home after a hard day in the fields and tucking into a plate of Musashino Udon. It’s hearty and filling food.



It’s also excellent value. The noodle and pork soup set starts at 750 yen but one can add other items; tempura is 930 yen and the flavoured rice cooked with vegetables (takikomi gohan) is 890 yen. One can even have the whole lot for 1,070 yen. That’s a large tray of really delicious, healthy food, more than enough for the average trencherman. If there’s still room in your stomach, you can even have deep fried monja sticks to go with your udon.



Mr. Suzuki quickly rustled up another dipping soup, this time chilled. The broth contains sesame with some cucumber, negi green onion, myoga ginger and green perilla (oba). This is a real summer sauce, gingery and deeply aromatic from the remarkable freshness of the green perilla.



Outstanding flavour!



Although Musashino Udon is often served separately with a hot soup, it is equally at home in a more familiar setting. This is the Shitamachi Curry udon set with rice, which will set you back 780 yen on its own or 920 yen with a bowl of rice steamed with clams, tofu skin and vegetables. Doesn’t that look great!



The restaurant interior is very comfortable with lighting that encourages customers to sit for a while after eating. There’s a wide drinks menu that includes some rare Kyushu shochu to match the extensive food menu. The udon is delicious, the welcome warm and the prices very reasonable. Next time you’re in the Ojima area do yourself a favour and drop in at Musashino Udon Mugiwara. You’ll be very glad that you did.




Story and Photos by Stephen Spencer