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!