Cafeteria-style Fresh Japanese Udon comes to Vancouver: Sanuki Udon

Last time we had fresh, handmade (hand-assisted?) udon was during our trip to Japan waaaaay back in 2006. It was a cool, artisanal-feeling place right in Shinjuku just a few steps from our hotel. If you’re curious, it was Mentsu-Dan. It was quite memorable for a few reasons:

  • It was cafeteria-style, thus really casual yet the udon noodles were good quality — smooth, firm, and chewy — everything you’d want in an udon.
  • The guys working the udon station were young but took their job seriously. But not so seriously that they didn’t crack a smile and give us a “V” sign when I took a picture of them! (See photo below)
  • Lots of sides to choose from, like tempura, spicy cod roe (!), natto, onigiri, etc.
  • The udon was served dry for the most part*, while up to then I had only known udon noodles in soup from Japanese restaurants in Vancouver.

*EDIT: This Serious Eats article actually lists Mentsu-Dan as a recommended choice for udon in Shinjuku, and says they have both hot and cold preparations. Still don’t remember seeing the more typical big bowls of udon in soup though.

Couple pics from Mentsu-Dan to establish a baseline:

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The guys working at Mentsu-Dan back in 2006.
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This is what udon looks like in Japan. This time I got natto and (I think) egg yolk. Aburaage (tofu) and seaweed on the side. From 2006.

I’ve heard about fresh udon-type places in Los Angeles (that sadly we just did not have time for BOTH times we went to LA). I imagine them to be similar to Mentsu-Dan. Anyways, imagine my surprise when right on Robson St. near Bute (and down the block from Konbiniya), a new udon place opened up recently that makes their own udon and soup! It’s called Sanuki Udon!

*Before you mention Sekai Udon Bar at Metrotown, I’m ignoring any non-Japanese-run places — the same way I ignore any Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese-run “Japanese” restaurants.

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Full-on Flavour at AnnaLena

AnnaLena has been burning up my Instagram feed ever since it opened about six months ago. I saw well-plated (that is, not pretentious nor precious), approachable food along the lines of Burdock & Co. (which I love) and other contemporary West Coast restaurants. I was curious, but it takes a lot of wrangling to get Wicca into places like this. So I kept this place in my back pocket. Luckily, a failed attempt to get into Kinome on West Broadway turned into the perfect moment to try out AnnaLena!

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Tweaking a Recipe: Pork Ribs Braised in Fish Sauce (Sườn Ram)

We received a wonderful cookbook (Quintessential: Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine) from Helga earlier this year, but we hadn’t gotten around to actually cooking from it until now. Wicca used the Pork Ribs Braised in Fish Sauce (Sườn Ram) recipe as a base, then tweaked it to suit her palate. We didn’t really intend to post this as a full recipe at the time, so I don’t have photos of the ingredients, prep, etc, but I hope this will inspire you anyways! Just check out the Instagram posts that I did that night. It was delicious!

Wicca’s tweaked recipe is below. Enjoy!

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