Tuesday, July 17, 2007

weather and udon

WE'RE FINALLY having a cool spell, flung at us by last weekend's typhoon. A typhoon and an earthquake at the same time. I remember the day before everything happened. Everything was quiet; still and quiet. Houses around here have metal shutters that can slide over all the windows. I went away for the weekend (to Karuizawa, to bathe in the onsen), so I barricaded my windows securely. I felt like a tortoise sucking in its appendages, or sailor shutting hatches to keep out storm rain or artillary. I've never seen a house that dark.


Tokyo summers: hot, awful, and sticky. Any breezes that venture inland from the bay give up and turn around, or are completely stymied by the tall buildings. I can't be sure, but I am almost certain that I saw a Tokyo building sweat once. Everyone carries around a handkerchief to slough off his/her sweat with. Plus it rains.

From the time I get to the office, fresh and sweaty from a long walk and train ride, to the time get home, I fantasize about waterslides and surfing. Oh well. Comes with the territory. On the plus side, because of the hot weather I get to try delicious dishes like this one: cold udon noodle soup at Opippi, a favorite local hangout in Kasumigaseki. I thought the name was funny too.

I ducked in (literally) during lunch time and was greeted by a kind, grandmotherly hostess who sat me down facing another businessman at a tiny table, probably two feet across. There were about 8 bar seats and 3 tables total.
I tried to scan the menu but realized it was all in kanji and hiragana. Desperate to try some fresh udon, I pointed to one of the few items that didn't have kanji in the name - "kayaku udon." The hostess nodded, indicating that it was a good choice. OK then, we'll see what comes out.
The cold soup (Opippi serves mostly cold udon in the summer) had a light broth, sweet shiitake mushrooms, egg, shredded daikon, nori, and onions. It was delicious. The udon noodles were smooth, thick, and substantial - I could taste the hand made texture in my mouth. I was able to practice my slurping technique, which I have yet to master even though I've lived in this country for almost a year. Very satisfying. The shiitake mushrooms provided a perfect, subtle balance again the light saltiness of the broth.

Men eating udon, Opippi, Tokyo

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