Putting her chopstick skills to the test, Marissa Carruthers tries out some traditional Japanese udon soup. Photograpy by Dylan Maddux.

If you think slurping while eating is rude, then you’d better get over it fast before heading to Udon Café Green Bowl. Start practising your chopstick skills, because this quaint Japanese eatery has tradition stamped all over it.

The converted shophouse opened its doors late last year and has become a popular haunt, with diners often experiencing a short wait for a table at lunchtime. Paying testament to the quality of the food is the fact that Japanese diners can be found slurping soup at the tables like pros, alongside a healthy mix of tourists and expats.

In keeping with Japanese style, the café boasts a simple, minimal look that merges cool shades of mint and cream with delicate floral paintings. The two rooms have a light, calm atmosphere and those brave enough to take on the heat can indulge in alfresco dining on the leafy, shaded patio.

For those not in the know, udon is an ancient Japanese noodle, first introduced to the country by a Buddhist priest called Kukai around the ninth century. Since then, the Japanese have been serving up the thick noodles — made by kneading wheat flour, salt and water — in cold or hot soups.

The simple but extensive menu offers a range of Japanese delights from salted plums ($0.50) to a selection of udon soups, including beef ($3.50 for medium, $4.50 for large) and egg ($3.75/$4.75). If you fancy something other than udon dishes, there are rice offerings from inari-sushi ($2) to tuna mayo rice balls ($1.25).

Being udon newbies, we had no choice but to opt for the hot beef udon soup with tempura prawns, a chicken and rice soup and miso soup to share. Despite ordering the medium dishes, huge bowls of steaming soup, filled with handfuls of thick noodles, meat and vegetables, were delivered to our table within about 10 minutes.

Here’s where learning to slurp comes into play. The noodles were soft, having taken in the combination of flavours thrown in the pot. The portion of sliced beef was generous and, despite being slightly fatty, was tender in the mouth. The two tempura prawns were of a reasonable size and the batter was cooked to crisp perfection, making it perfect to dip into the soup.

The chicken soup was a hearty mix of rice, broth, meat and vegetables. The rice had slowly absorbed the cooking juices, creating a tasty kind of porridge.

The salted plum was a different story. If you’re not into super sour and tart tastes, then steer well clear. To say it is sharp on the tongue is an under-estimation.

Full, we paid the bill, which came in at a very reasonable $15.25. As I haven’t quite got my chopstick and slurping technique up to scratch, I will be returning to hone my skills.

29b Street 288, Phnom Penh
Tel: 089 831 007
Open Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 3pm