Above: Udon ala Kurusu. Shall I boar you with the details?
When we went rooting around for bamboo shoots while WWOOFing in Japan, we came home with a disappointing harvest. The local wild boars had gotten to them first -- evident in the clusters of ruts we found in the ground.
But what goes around comes around. Our disappointment quickly faded when our WWOOF host Shigemi suggested that we try Udon Kurusu on our day off. People from many towns around travel into Nose (pronounced Nose-say) to eat at Kurusu, she said. Especially those with a nose for wild boar, or shi-shi niku.
"The local hunters like going there especially in the winter months, for wild boar shabu shabu," she said.
Is there a more delicious way to pass a winter evening?
Turns out, the late spring lunch experience is not to be knocked either.
We had walked past Kurusu quite a few times during our week on the farm when we ran errands in town. From the far end of its parking lot I had always been confused about whether it was a restaurant or a taxidermist, given the slightly tired looking stuffed bear, deer and wild boar in the glass showcase at its entrance.
It all made sense when we realised that Kurusu specialied in game meats. In addition the more domestic, chicken, duck and pork, Nakamura Mitsugu -- who has owned and run Kurusu for more than 30 years -- also serves up wild boar, pheasant, deer, and yes, bear.
Here's what Kurusu looks like inside -- a quaint rustic wooden interior with shabu-shabu ready tables.
My wild boar udon came in a little lidded cauldron with beautifully fresh raw napa cabbage, leeks, bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms, soup stock, and a few gorgeous deep-red-and-white streaked sliced of wild boar, peeking out from under the lid.
Having it cook right in front of you is (a large) part of the fun.
Things start to get very hot and steamy.
This was the 2nd time in my life I've had wild boar. The first time was a wild boar ragu with pasta at Italian restaurant Oso in Singapore. As before, the wild boar tasted of pork but with much more personality -- no doubt from the hog spending its life running around at will outdoors, eating a wide variety of roots (e.g., bamboo!), flowers, fruits, acorns, mushrooms, worms etc. According to our WWOOF hosts in Spain, wild boars are crafty enough to root or wriggle their way through veg and flower bed wire fences. They're even apparently wily enough to shake the fruit of a tree, to the despair of many a farmer!
When farmers get fed up enough, they call in the local hunters, and a delicious quest begins. In Andalucia where we WWOOFed, the boar-sighter apparently gets the first choice of cuts if the hunt goes well.
Before I boar you to tears... For those who prefer rice to noodles, Kurusu also does a wild boar katsu set, with a little bowl of udon on the side. Not as fun as the cookalong-live udon, in my opinion, but no doubt just as delish.
If you're not the gun-toting type but would like to go on this little boar hunt to Kurusu as a day trip from Osaka...
- Get on the Hankyu-Takarazuka train from Umeda station in Osaka (~25 minutes)
- Change at Kawanishi-noseguchi station and get onto the Nose train line (~25 minutes)
- Get off at Yamashita, the end of the line
- Walk outside to the bus stop, and take bus 73 to Yamabeguchi (~25 minutes)
- After you alight from the bus, take the first left at the intersection. Kurusu is about a 5-minute walk up the street, on your right
Nose-cho, Toyono-gun, Osaka 12-1
+81 72 734 0652