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Build your own bowl of udon at Marakume

Update: December, 06/2015 - 05:30
Grab and go: Inside the Japanese self-service restaurant Marakume Udon & Tempura in HCM City. — VNS Photos Phuong Mai

Serve yourself up some flavourful soups and crunchy fried foods at the affordable Japanese eatery Marakume Udon & Tempura in HCM City. Phuong Mai reports.

Located at a corner of Ly Tu Trong and Truong Dinh streets in downtown District 1, Marakume Udon & Tempura restaurant is often crowded. Why is it so popular? I had to find out.

It was lunch time when I visited the two-storey restaurant which opened earlier this year. We stood in a long queue of both Vietnamese and foreigners waiting to order.

Luckily, the line moved quickly as long as people were able to make up their minds before reaching the order counter.

Above the counter was a menu featuring pictures and names in both Vietnamese and English of 11 kinds of udon and three rice dishes, priced from VND39,000-79,000 (nearly US$1.70-3.50) per dish. Different kinds of tempura and sushi were also listed on the menu.

I chose beef udon, while my brother selected curry udon.

We took trays at the beginning of the counter, told the chefs which udon dish we wanted, and then waited for the hot and delicious bowls of udon.

The restaurant also offers side dishes of beef, pork, noodle, rice and egg, priced from VND10,000-30,000 .

Next was the tempura zone with a wide range of crispy tempura - vegetable, prawn, fish and chicken tempura, costing from VND10,000-24,000.

Crunchy creation: Fish tempura and Japanese fried fish paste.

We chose sweet potato, eggplant, prawn and fish tempura with Japanese fried fish cake.

The sushi zone included inari sushi (rice stuffed in seasoned tofu pouch), sushi tonkatsu, teriyaki chicken sushi and prawn tempura sushi, from VND22,000-28,000 per piece or a set of four pieces. It looked fresh and delicious, but we let it go for next time.

I moved to the sauce and condiment area which included tempura sauces, chili sauce, wasabi, tenkasu (tempura crumbs), Welsh green onions, and freshly grated ginger, all available for seasoning my udon.

I put a lot of green onions and tenkasu into my bowl. I loved them. The onions made the noodles smell good, and the tenkasu was crispy.

The first floor was full, so my brother and I went to the second floor and sat at a table with a view of Truong Dinh Street.

It was time to enjoy lunch.

The fragrance of the broth and the colour of the udon noodles stimulated our senses.

Full bowl: Beef udon with kake broth, stir-fried beef and mushrooms.

My beef udon (VND79,000) was a colourful medley of white fresh udon, light brown stir-fried beef and mushrooms, green onions, and yellow tempura crumbs.

The secret of the beef udon was the kake broth, the restaurant's traditional broth with a light fish and seaweed taste. It's sweet and moreish, while the udon and beef were tender.

Restaurant: Marakume Udon & Tempura

Address: 215 Ly Tu Trong St, Dist 1

Tel: (08) 38270740/ 387270741

Hours: 9am - 10pm

Comment: Udon with a variety of broths, tempura, sushi and desserts. Self-service Japanese style: tasty and affordable

I was impressed with my brother's curry udon (VND69,000). The brown colour of the mild Japanese curry nicely contrasted with the green onions in the bowl.

Looking into the bowl, I saw white noodles and shredded beef submerged in the curry sauce. The sauce, made of vegetables and meat, was spicy but delicious.

My brother said the curry was sweet and a little oily.

While we enjoyed the udon, we ate the tempura which was crispy and yummy. Both the vegetable and seafood tempura were tender and the fish paste was smooth and springy.

I was full, but I asked my brother to try the restaurant's Japanese desserts like Kyoto matcha cake, matcha pudding, sakura roll cake and chocolate karinto bun, priced from VND25,000-38,000.

But he said no, so we skipped dessert. In the end it turned out to be a big meal for both of us. — VNS

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