Disclaimer: I visited Marukame udon on my third visit to Ho Chi Minh. I tend to stay away from non-local food when I travel, but I simply could not resist. I did resist to try the Yoshinoya at the new HCM Aeon mall.
If you throw a rock in Japan, there is a good chance you will hit a Marugame udon shop. Just a few km from my house there are 2 or 3 shops, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw one in the center of Ho Chi Minh. Marugame became Marukame, but don’t be fool by the spelling, this is the foreign branding of the popular chain of udon restaurants.
Why would I eat udon in Vietnam? After a week in Ho Chi Minh, the curiosity won over me, I had to see how this popular Japanese dish was interpreted in Vietnam. Vietnamese obviously love to eat noodles and it only make sense to sell udon.
The shop looks exactly the same as in Japan.
Udon are made from scratch like in Japan.
The service was friendly, the menu was easy to navigate with an English version available (no such thing in Japan…) . The tempura were the same as offered in Japan.
The udon tasted almost the same as in Japan. The tempura and onigiri were both delicious.
The second floor
The biggest difference I found was at the condiment counter where they had hot pepper, lime and cilantro, three things you would never find in Japan.
If you are Vietnamese, don’t hesitate a second to eat there for a taste of Japan. If you are Japanese or from any other country and you are spending less than 3 days in Vietnam or it’s your first visit in Vietnam, do you really want to eat Japanese food? If you are Japanese, please go eat some pho or something and wait till you get home to eat udon.
Marukame is very popular abroad, apparently the shop in Hawaii is so busy, that waiting in line for an hour is not uncommon. No such line in Vietnam, so have fun. Do I regret wasting precious stomach space? A little, but I had to scratch this culinary itch.
192 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam