There is no kidding around with udon. They are chewy, slippery, rope-sized noodles. For an “over-chewer” like me, who needs to chew every bit of food to a granular level before swallowing it, staring down at a large bowl of udon is daunting. It always makes me think back to this tiny udon shop in the mountains outside of Tokyo.
The Japan Fly Fishers group would kindly take me out on fly fishing excursions, which usually included a stop at some amazing, traditional restaurant along the way (okay, I have to admit they did bring me to Denny’s once for brunch, but if you’ve spent time in Japan, you know that isn’t unusual). After fishing all morning, a few of us walked out of the river and right into what looked like a house, but was a beautiful udon shop where they were hand-making udon and cooking them over a wood fire.
Still in our waders, we sat down at the circular table around the fire, and wrapped our cold hands around each bowl of udon. I closed my eyes and inhaled the steam and aroma, but was suddenly shaken out of my “Folger’s-in-your-cup” moment by the sounds of slurping. Before I chewed on my first noodle, everyone else had already slurped down half their bowls, seemingly swallowing the noodles whole. A few more loud slurps, and the bowls were empty. With tapping feet around me raring to get back to the river, I stuffed my face, chewed like crazy, and choked and coughed on udon until it was gone.
My udon eating skills never improved, but you know what, I still love udon. Just at home now, in a no-pressure, no-slurp zone. Hot in a soup broth, chilled with a dipping sauce, smothered in Japanese curry, or quickly stir-fried like in this Yaki Udon…