うどんの日 - The Day of Udon
One mercilessly sodden Saturday, the rain chilled me to my very bones.
Seeking respite, there was only one way for us to revive our frigid innards.......UDON!
Basically, udon is a thick and juicy wheat-flour Japanese noodle commonly served in a broth (but not always) and with toppings that will vary regionally.
Udon can be served in the following ways:
Atsu-atsu - Hot noodle and hot broth
Hiya-astu - Cold noodle and hot broth
Hiya-hiya - Cold noodle and a side serving of cold dipping sauce.
Udon eateries and shops are called Udon-ya. London has such a place and it comes highly reccommended.
Koya can be found in the heart of Soho and you will spot it a mile away because there is usually a queue outside. Koya is unpretentious and simply decorated and I like it because the focus all goes on providing noodles of such pureness of quality that it shows real respect for the traditions of udon.
Koya serves "Sanuki udon" which is renowned in Japan to be the most refined udon noodle.
I chose the atsu-atsu buta miso udon (hot noodle, hot broth miso pork).
Hiro went for the atsu-atsu tempura udon.
Both were served with deliciously complimentary broths. My miso was slightly sweet with a good depth of flavour. The sanuki udon (which are handmade by the chefs) were thick, juicy and delightfully chewy.
We also ordered a small plate of butakakuni which in this case was slow-cooked braised pork belly in cider and it was very good indeed.
Koya is on the pricey side but I have learned that when eating out in London good Japanese food doesn't come cheap and I would happily pay the price for a good bowl of my favourite style of noodles rather than a half hearted bowl of ramen that seem to be very common these days.
I often wonder how comfortably/proudly/sincerely many of the so-called Japanese restaurants in London would serve their food in Japan as well as London. In all honesty think many places would blush and shy away from this challenge. However, I have come to believe that Koya could rise to this challenge and do so with their heads held high.
"The heart of Sanuki Udon lies in its simplicity. Light, but profoundly deep. Sanuki people often eat freshly cooked Udon noodle with only a drop of soy sauce. It is this simplicity, which demands intrigue and endless attention for these noodles." Koya, London.
Udon is Japanese soul food. It is a dish that warms my heart and fills my belly and makes me smile when I finish a bowl. So much hard work goes into making these unassuming chubby noodles that I cannot merely consume a bowl without giving thought to all the sweat, love and attention that goes into making them.
We ended our Day of Udon by watching a film that we chanced upon on the internet....
\\ Udon (the film)
"There's nothing here. Just udon."
Udon is set in 1990s Sanuki (at the very heart of udon) , a small noodle mad town in Kagawa Prefecture. Sanuki is home to 1 million residents and during the time the film was set, it was also home to 900 udon restaurants.
The film evolves around the prodigal son of a udon noodlemaker who having failed to set New York alight with his aspiring comedy act returns to his small town with a real dislike for udon. Many unexpected, hilarious and at times deeply touching things happen that change his mind about the noodle in his new life at home. The really beautiful part of the film for me involves insightful depiction of soulful process that goes into making udon. It really spoke to my heart.