By Hiromu Namiki / Japan News Staff WriterKOMATSU, Ishikawa — When most people think of yakisoba, they conjure up images of stir-fried noodles coated with thick, brown sauce.
Yet for citizens of Komatsu, a city in southern Ishikawa Prefecture, the noodle dish is white, sauceless and simply flavored with salt, a variation known as shio-yakisoba (salt-flavored stir-fried noodles).
“For the people of Komatsu, noodles with brown sauce is not yakisoba,” said Shigeki Takahashi, 37, the second-generation owner of Chinese restaurant Naoken. “For us, salt-flavored noodles is yakisoba. This is the flavor we grew up with.”
Takahashi belongs to the youth division of the Komatsu Chinese restaurants’ association and has promoted shio-yakisoba — which he calls Komatsu’s soul food — with other members to invigorate the city.
He and his colleagues researched the history of the dish and created a leaflet with such information as a chronological table, restaurants that serve shio-yakisoba and a map of the restaurants’ locations. The leaflet can be found at JR Komatsu Station among other locations.
According to Takahashi, Komatsu’s shio-yakisoba was first made as the specialty dish of a Chinese restaurant that opened in 1959 before spreading to other restaurants.
The city is the birthplace of general machine maker Komatsu Ltd., and one of the company’s main factories was previously located in the center of the city. Restaurants nearby were often crowded with factory workers.
“Salt-flavored noodles were loved by factory workers, who preferred the saltiness and large portions,” Takahashi said.
There are various methods of preparing shio-yakisoba in Komatsu, but typical varieties use flat, thick noodles in contrast to the thin, curled noodles used to make yakisoba with brown sauce. Takahashi and some other restaurant owners who serve shio-yakisoba use noodles specially developed for the dish. Locally produced vegetables such as bean sprouts, cabbage, naganegi long green onions and carrots are also mixed in.
The dish is distinguished by its texture, as the elasticity of the flat, thick noodles pairs well with the crispiness of the stir-fried bean sprouts and other vegetables. Its lightly seasoned flavor and savory aroma stimulate the appetite, with the noodles often quickly devoured.
Naoken’s shio-yakisoba (¥580) is prepared in a distinctive manner. Takahashi first stir-fries the noodles thoroughly to remove moisture, before dousing the noodles in broth to restore the moisture and add flavor.
These days, locals of all backgrounds and voracious young people in particular satisfy their cravings with the dish.
“One time, a group of five students came and polished off 10 servings of shio-yakisoba,” Takahashi said. “I hope that it’s loved by locals for a long time.”
Open: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.
Address: 2-2 Itomachi, Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture
Phone: (0761) 21-9852
Credit cards accepted
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