Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Noodles are a staple of Japanese cuisine. Noodles, in all their variety, came to Japan via China, around the Nara Era (8th Century) and became popular in the Edo Era (17 - 19th Century). Noodle shops here range from street vendors to high-end resturants with pedigrees going back a hundred years or more. Everybody has a favorite noodle place, whether it be plain or fancy or somewhere in between.

Kimura Udon is a small noodle shop down the road from my house. The shop isn't anything fancy, but it is comfy and absolutely spotless. The noodles are made fresh right in the open kitchen of the shop and you can watch the entire process. Udon is made by kneading white wheat flour, water and salt, and then prepared in a variety of ways.

Udon are thick, white, wheat noodles. They're big, especially to someone like me, who generally prefers capellini and other thin noodles. When I first got here, I wouldn't eat udon noodles, because they reminded me of albino nightcrawlers. I'm glad I got over that stupid hangup, because udon noodles are delicious. There are lots of variations, with just a few listed here: Kamaage tsukejiri (boiled in plain water, accompanied by a strong dipping sauce served on the side), Kitsune, which is Udon with piece of fried tofu on top--probably my favorite. It is said that the Kitsune (Japanese Fox) loves fried tofu, and it is from this story that the dish derives its name; Torroro (Japanese Yam), Yasaiten (a piece of veggie tempura in the bowl), Sansai (Wild Mountain Veggies) and assorted meat ingredients. Chris, having more of a carnivorious nature, likes the Nikku Udon (pork bowl). Udon dishes can be eaten hot or cold. I like the cold noodles for dinner at the end of a hot, humid high summer day. As the weather gets colder, a hot bowl of noodles is an uncomplicated, comforting and filling food.

Tonight, I had Kamaage Udon, which are served in the water they are cooked in, hence the name kamaage, meaning " from the pot" (Udon are usually boiled, then drained, the dropped into various broths for serving).The Shoyu (soy sauce) dipping sauce for Kamaage is served on the side. You dip the noodles in the sauce and slurp away. The noodles, which are solid yet springy in texture, settle into the bottom of the stomach, providing inner warmth and a feeling of satisifaction and comfort. I drank the rest of the remaining dipping sauce (this is not considered rude). To accompany my Kamaage Udon, I had a small piece of Yasaiten (mixed veggie tempura). Tempura, which is deep-fried, isn't exactly diet food, but Tempura is one of my favorite things to eat and I just couldn't pass it up, diet be damned. Misawa has a couple of places that serve really good Tempura and next time I have some, I'll write about that.

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