One of my favourite dishes at SoHo Japanese restaurant ‘Koya’ is one that seems on the surface rather a dull one. When the elements are described in the blurb there seems to be a lacking of heat and excitement:

“Tempura prawn and vegetable served with cold udon noodles and hot dipping sauce.”

Simply deep-fried vegetable and prawn – nothing exciting there and a sense that it might be rather plain and boring. Cold udon noodles – conjures up images of clumpy, heavy noodles. Dipping sauce again conjures up a rich sweet, terriyaki style concoction.

Alas one try of this extraordinary dish and the way each elements is presented to you dispels any notion that you ordered the incorrectly. On many occasions when my three dishes that make up ‘Ten Hiya Atsu’ are served, other patrons will ask what I’ve ordered.

The hand made cold udon noodles are clean, precise and layered neatly on a bamboo serving plate. The ‘dipping sauce’ is actually a refreshing dashi style soup made with vegetables, seaweed, soy sauce, mirin, usukuchi soy sauce with other seasonings. The tempura prawn is a large prawn, expertly prepared and deep fried to perfection with a wooden skewer inserted during cooking to keep the prawn straight and ensure even cooking. All this is rounded off with a variety of seasonings, including finely sliced nori and spicy nanami togarashi.

The way the dish is eaten is an event itself. I like to start with the tempura – in this case it’s a seasonal cornucopia of vegetables that could include bell pepper, asparagus, courgette, aubergine, spring onion or even parsley. I take a piece of the tempura and into the sauce for just a moment. The dipping ever so slightly softens the tempura and when you eat it there’s a taste explosion as the crunchy tempura, soft yet fresh vegetable and the fragrant, light seasoning fill your mouth. Each vegetable bring a unique twist to each mouthful until you get to the crescendo that is the sweet prawn.

With the tempura nestling nicely in your belly, it’s time to demolish the udon. The udon is probably the trickiest noodle to eat with chopsticks, even for a long term user like me. The idea is to eat the udon whole but the moment you try and wrestle a whole one into your chopsticks and then into your mouth, you will have dropped a few precious noodles before any gets into your mouth. The way the Japanese do it is to hold the dipping sauce in one hand and taking it close to the udon bowl so you grab and drop from one bowl to the other. A healthy slurp later and a deliciously soft and warmed up udon noodle slips down your throat. Repeat until foodgasm.

Quite a startling dish then and surely epitomising the word ‘synergy’.

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About Imran Behlim

I'm a mature kid into all things 80's, video games, movies, comics, books, music, trainers and anything that distracts me from the fear-mongering and paranoia of the mainstream media.

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