Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who Wants to Live Forever?

For the longest time, there's been a preoccupation across traditional and contemporary cultures with human mortality and the finiteness of life. Longevity, or a long life, is a highly coveted aspiration from Utopian ideology to Japanese traditional culture, as this delicious bowl of toshikoshisoba, handmade buckwheat noodles in hot tsuyu that was served in my older sister's home on New Year's Eve, symbolised.

Who Wants to Live Forever, went Queen. Quite apt for the following day. With weather in the Kansai region of central Japan getting oppressively colder over the New Year, retail and commerce coming to a grinding halt for a few days as the nation celebrated, who the hell would want to?? Despite my misgivings, I couldn't bring myself to discount the good faith and intent of the season. It did allow me to catch up on some serious drinking, interspersed with the hunt for the scarcity of food joints that stayed open. One such was the local branch of the popular Hanamaru udon chain.

Memo went for a bowl of Negi Udon (udon with spring onions), so simple yet so swiftly gratifying after a short an effective self-service queue. While waiting to reach the server to your order, you are accosted by a dazzling array of sides and add-ons - steaming oden, onigiri, tempura EVERYTHING (chicken, sliced lotus root, prawn, fish, even an egg, yes a battered whole boiled egg!) to dunk into the soup and tempt our fortune.


Mag had Niku Udon (beef slices). Other of our top choices were Wakame Udon (seaweed) and Onsen Tamago Udon (half boiled egg, served hot or cold). The bowls of noodles on their own were fairly spartan and would have made wise choices for a long life, but topped with all the deep fried goodies that we piled on our side plates, a longer life was probably not a serious aspiration.


Neither would have this Dan Dan Ramen contributed to upping our life expectancy, from a packed ramen stop at Nagoya main train station. Memo thoroughly enjoyed the thicker strand of egg noodles submerged in a massive cauldron of heavy stock underscored by ground peanut and minced pork. Made even the typically lavish and salty miso ramen or chasumen stock seem diluted in comparison.

While the question remains if extending life is natural or necessarily laudable and modern science continues its onslaught into the study of reversing the aging process, the Japanese has been ahead of the game, living longer than their counterparts elsewhere. Eating right, minus the super-sizing or the add-ons, is one way to expire later.


Ise Udon, served only in Ise, city of the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan, encapsulates no-frills eating. The appreciation of the dish of thick handmade noodles served in a black broth made from soy sauce and sake, garnished only with spring onions, requires a radical shift from our habitual need for nourishing sides and indulgent extras.
Rather than harbouring absurd expectations of how much longer I can stretch my physical existence here, I'd translate longevity to be an aspiration for a life long and extended on fulfilment and happiness, short on restraint and remorse!

On that note, Eat and Drink on!

18 comments:

Life for Beginners said...

Oh, you know what? Japanese udon in soup is my fave food fix in 2009 (and possibly this year too)... such heartwarming comfort food... That's a great way to be living and living to the fullest, I say.

Happy New Year, dear! :)

Sean said...

despite all those carbs, everything in this post looks pretty healthy! or at least healthier than nasi lemak, bak kut teh and murtabak! no wonder we msians aren't famed for longevity :D

qwazymonkey said...

damn i miss my noodle fix in Japan. I wanna live forever in Tokyo! LOL

backStreetGluttons said...

Its only worth living long when we can go to this place to eat the long fat noodles !

and to see the one

( we will be in Pg weekend, are you around or still drowning estatik in the eternal everlasting kirin/sapporo or sake ? )
;)

J said...

Well, if you could live forever then think of all the yummy food you could try! :)
(Ooh, and you could see the evolution of cuisine around the world too!)

allie said...

I love udon! Ise Udon look so special! I want I want!

CUMI & CIKI said...

noodles looks damn tempting.. let's go:D

UnkaLeong said...

Ayam a sucker for noodles ;) It's all that green tea that they drink over ther aitelya!

Big Boys Oven said...

hahahah just wonder if you did get any gifts for me from Japan!

minchow said...

LFB, Happiest New Year to you too! Udon in your brand new digs... now that's a homecoming!

Sean, M'sians are hedonists by nature! There isn't a shred of discipline in the way we consume food!

Qwazymonkey, Tokyo is the BOMB! Been scheming for years how I can live there legally, but it's such an intricate process I've given up!

BSG, am back!! May be in Penang this weekend to see my lovely family! What's your plan of action?

J, yeah I suppose food's a pretty good reason to keep living! I fear that once modern science finds a way to reverse the aging process, they'll also find a way to eliminate our dependence on food! A fate worse than death!

Allie, yes the Ise Udon was quite unique! We'd been seeing bowls piled high with ingredients that this was quite a lovely change!

minchow said...

Ciki, go Japan?? Yes please! :-P

UnkaLeong, actually you're close with the green tea. So key to counter the grease (and sake) is to guzzle equal amount of antioxidants!

BBO, I do have some awesome sake which remains unopened. Already 8 days and counting since I got back, so won't be long before I need to crack it! Join me!

fatboybakes said...

OH DAM* you woman. now i have this CRAVVVVING for japanese noodles. ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!

thenomadGourmand said...

U must tell us whr to get something similar in KL! Cos Japan is not anywhr affordable for me currently!

iamthewitch said...

Ahh the huge smooth udon is just heavenly! Where can I get it here????? *wails*

ck lam said...

Noodles is another favorable comfort food for me.

mimid3vils said...

Ise Udon very fat :P

backStreetGluttons said...

Team bsg has landed in Pulau Tikus, we hope to meet tonite or tomorrow. Please call 0163353288...

FoOd PaRaDiSe said...

wow...the udons look fabulous.