Kishimen Noodle

Kishimen Noodle

Japanese noodles vary in many forms – they can be thin, thick, chewy, soft and more, but how did the kishimen noodle get so flat?

The kishimen noodle, which looks a lot like Italian tagliatelle pasta, is also called hirauchi (flattened) udon, and is a specialty dish in Aichi Prefecture. What can be called kishimen is actually defined in strict terms of the Quality Labeling Standard for Instant Noodles by the Japanese Agricultural Standards. It is classified as “noodle that is 4.5mm or longer in width, shaped in the form of a band, with a thickness of less than 2.0mm. Only these can be labeled as hoshi (dried) hiramen, hiramen, kishimen or himokawa.” Anything else cannot be called kishimen.

The root of kishimen is not very clear, yet in “Tokaido-meisho-ki” (Records of great sights along Tokaido) from the early 17th century, there is a mention of a specialty flattened noodle called himokawa, the word itself deriving from the name of a post station, imokawa (current Imagawa, Kariyashi city). According to the explanation by the board of education in Nagoya city, a noodle dish with pheasant meat (kiji) from Mikochi-chichufuku (current Chiryu city) became popular and spread to Nagoya, eventually changing its pronunciation from kijimen to kishimen. Yet this doesn’t explain in detail how the noodle got so flat in the first place.

The kishimen ingredients are water, flour and salt – same as regular udon – yet the noodle becomes longer as it gets rolled out until it is thin and flat, making it require less time for boiling. The fact that it was a specialty dish at a post station gives us a possible explanation of the reason why the noodle is flat. It might have been a way to serve meals quickly to the tired and hungry travelers – or to make the noodle absorb soup, as the local people liked strong flavor.

Just like regular udon, kishimen can be enjoyed in hot soup or cooled after boiling, and in the form of miso (soybean paste) stewed udon, a specialty in Nagoya, you can enjoy a very Nagoya-like rich taste version of the dish. Dressing it in pasta sauce has also been suggested recently as a new way to eat kishimen. If you get to like kishimen in its standard form, you might want to try pasta or lasagna styles as well.

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