Half Scottish, Half Japanese. Tempura Mars bar?

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I began writing this blog in October 2010 as a new father documenting food in his family. Before I knew it, I was in the final of MasterChef 2012. Now cooking is no longer just a hobby.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Three types of Japanese noodles

My training for the New York marathon was dealt a blow the day Hector was born. That Sunday, I was meant to be running a half marathon in London. I was planning to build up to 20 miles or more in October, then taper down towards Sunday 7th November. Since I managed one 15 mile run in October and not much else, the only training I could realistically embark upon as I entered the first week of November was carb-loading to build a store of glycogen in my leg muscles.

So last Friday lunchtime I headed with some glee to a Japanese noodle restaurant to start the carb-fest. I chose Koya on Frith street, a few doors up from Ronnie Scotts. In Japan, it is common for restaurants to specialise in a particular type of food. I have been to restaurants that serve only sushi, tonkatsu (deep fried pork in breadcrumbs), shabu shabu (where you cook thinly sliced meat in a broth at your table), yakitori and even eel. Koya specialises in udon noodles, which are the thick, white noodles. Koya brings variation to the menu by serving them hot or cold and with different combinations of meat and vegetables. Generally, people prefer to eat noodles hot served in soup when it is cold and cold served with dipping sauce when it is warmer. 

The other main type of noodle that you will come across in Japanese restaurants is soba. Because they are made with buckwheat flour rather than wheatflour, they are brown (or sometimes dyed green with green tea). The dough is rolled out and cut, rather than pulled, resulting in a thinner and flatter noodle.

I used to get mixed up between the two so I had to invent a mnemonic to remember the difference:

Udon: Ooh, Don Corleone, he's the big fat white one.
Soba: brown is a sober colour.

There are a number of other types of Japanese noodle and regional variations on both udon and soba noodles, but one other type that you will commonly come across is ramen. It is a noodle that was originally imported from China. It is usually yellow because it is made with eggs or kansui, a type of mineral water. Ramen is the noodle that is used in instant noodles, but it doesn't necessarily have to be curly.

I arrived in New York at midday on Saturday and within 8 hours had been to two restaurants and one cupcake shop. New York is a superb place for eating out, but I'll leave that for another day!

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