The Japanese "Sacred" Noodles Feature a Printed Religious Sutra.

The Japanese "Sacred" Noodles Feature a Printed Religious Sutra.
Photo: Nittanosho Kanzantei

Ota, Gunma Prefecture, is home to a popular Japanese restaurant that has gone viral online due to its sale of a special kind of noodles that include the whole Buddhist Sutra emblazoned on the outside.

The Ota restaurant Nittanosho Kanzantei has been making headlines for something that isn't even on the menu. People can only buy its so-called "holy noodles" as a memento to take home and cook or give as a present, but they can't stop raving about them. These distinctive noodles are cut from broad rectangular sheets and have edible ingredients written in big, caligraphy-like letters that stay visible even after cooking. Now you can read the labels on your food as you eat them!

The whole Buddhist scripture Heart Sutra is printed on one package of these holy noodles. The Heart Sutra is often distributed to visitors to temples on paper, but Nittanosho Kanzantei figured it would be just as effective on noodles.

Monks typically sing the Heart Sutra during memorial ceremonies, funerals, and meditation in temples because of its focus on the idea of emptiness. Nittanosho Kanzantei doesn't provide its holy noodles to the public because they believe the meal is more appropriately enjoyed in the seclusion of one's own home.

Included in each package of holy noodles is the whole 260-character Heart Sutra, as well as a pamphlet containing the full text, furigana letters to aid read the most difficult kanji, and a contemporary English translation reference for people unfamiliar with sutras.

Bamboo charcoal and wheat-based caramel colouring are used to "print" the thick holy noodles, according to the Nittanosho Kanzantei website. Even after being cooked, the characters are still legible and understandable. The restaurant suggests cooking them with flavorful veggies like cabbage, carrots, onions, and taro rather than boiling them.

The Sacred Noodles are said to be exclusive to the Gunma Prefecture. For an extra flavor boost, you can get a three-pack for 1,620 yen (about $12), including dashi seasoning.

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