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I was just chatting with Kayoko online, when we started talking about my lunch at Ginza’s Sato Yosuke udon restaurant.

It was amazing. The noodles were thin and shiny. Apparently after they boil the noodles, they place them in ice-cold water to bring out the shiny sheen regardless if they are served chilled or warm in broth. It’s just like what they tell you about your hair – after you condition, give it a good rinse in cold water to lock in the shine.

Anyway, the conversation progressed into my inability to adapt into Japanese food and their excessively high carb-to-protein ratios. For example, today’s lunch set included of main dish of cold udon noodles (Goma-Miso Bukkake Udon, which is cold udon topped with a sesame miso sauce) with a bowl of flavored takikomi rice (above picture, rice on the left, udon on right).

Atkins Diet ALERT! This is pretty typical for a Japanese lunch set, noodles with a side of rice (either flavored or fried). This phenomenon of carb-overload is something I am still gradually trying to get used to – especially when a standard lunch option in California of a Grilled Chicken Ceasar Salad offers a hefty portion of protein, while the protein in my lunch today, was really only from the Goma-Miso sauce coating my noodles.

During my first year in Tokyo, I could not finish the normal portions of carbs, usually in the form of rice. I thought I grew up Japanese, but damn, Japanese people who grow up in Japan really, really eat a shitload of rice. I can handle having rice in almost every meal, but not a huge portion of it every time. So I’d get a teishoku lunch set and usually end up leaving 1/2 or a 1/3 of rice every time, while my colleagues would be getting “okawari” seconds (side note: during lunch many places offer free “okawari” for rice and miso soup).

The idea of a lunch such as today, suggests that rice is the “okazu” or side dish of the noodles. So instead of say, eating your rice and accenting it with Kung Pao Chicken, you eat your noodles and accent it with rice. Obviously, this overthrows the whole notion of the Atkins diet because I look around and everyone is really thin… What’s going on?

After three years of being here though, I am proud to say that today, I ate my whole bowl of noodles plus every grain of rice. I slurped a few bunches of noodle and broke up the monotony with a mouthful of rice. It works. I miss the generous servings of protein in America, but I can definitely have “udon with a side of rice” once in a while.



  • Actually, the camera is my coworker’s Nikon COOLPIX S60 (touch screen compact digital camera)! Hmm, I am actually trying to figure out the carbs=skinny Japanese people thing as well. I’ll definitely report back when I have more insights.

    yoko on

  • Yoko got a new camera! Kayoko, that is also why there is a cold trigger button on hairdryers…I think. Yoko, you didn’t explain though about how carbs = skinny? Must know!!

    Sonja on

  • yoko, thanks for bringing this up. can we please all talk about this? i, personally, love the notion of getting rice along with my noodles. like the breakfast dilemma of sweet vs. savory, this totally allows you the best of both worlds.

    riddle me this:
    i am japanese therefore i eat all my noodles and finish the rice.

    OR, is it…

    i eat all my noodles and finish the rice, therefore i am japanese.

    i had no idea about that conditioner trick. although that sounds COLD.

    kayoko on

  • Chimothy,
    Thanks for your insights! Both are SO true. Isn’t it crazy how they inhale their carbs? I am still very amazed by it. Hmmm and about the tsukemono… very interesting.
    Good luck with your 2009 Low-carbathon. Lots of yakitori perhaps?!

    yoko on

  • Hi,
    I just came across your blog entry while surfing because I’m trying to eat fewer carbs it being New Years and everything. I’m finding it hard to eat Japanese food in Japan without something starchy and white. Here’s how I think they stay skinny despite this fact.
    1. Japanese people eat rice with tsukemono which has acid to lower the glycemic load.
    2. They don’t chew their carbs. I witness this today as I was having ramen with a colleague. One splurp and the bowl is dry. So by applying the basic scientific principle that chopping something up increases the surface area to volume ratio, thereby making the rate of reaction with the carbohydrase enzymes faster, we can hazard a guess that the Japanese keep their glycemic load down this way and hence stay slim.

    I hope my pseudo science was useful.

    P.S. I didn’t finish my bowl of rice with my ramen today even though I was brought Chinese.

    chimothy on

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