Udon: Big Fat Noodles

Japanese udon noodles are like sumo wrestlers. Are you going to make fun of them because they're fat? Hell no. Is its dainty cousin, ramen, going to pull a fast one and attack? Only in crazy Japanese noodle ads. Since we're securing our luck well into 2013 by chowing down on fish, lentils, grapes and other auspicious foods, the biggest, heftiest noodles we can find seem like the smartest move three days into the New Year.

While udon is frequently stir-fried with vegetables, you'll usually find it served in a soy sauce-based broth, sprinkled with sliced scallions and any of your favorite Japanese toppings. When looking beyond the sushi lunch menu, you should definitely try udon soup with tempura. The broth itself makes a great dipping sauce and the light fried tempura coating doesn't get soggy, it just gets tastier. Plus, the bits of crunchy tempura coating float on top (inexplicably referred to as tanuki, or raccoon), adding a textural element. So now you've got soupy, chewy and crunchy.

Now, ninja time. Yes, ninja udon exists, and it might just best the noodle weenie in the awesome food mashups category. True to its name, ninja udon contains bits of actual ninja...nah I'm joshin'. It refers to a popular preparation of the dish in which the toppings are hidden under the noodles, and get this: you're forewarned with a nori garnish in the shape of a ninja star! I want that!

Come summer, chill your udon. That kind of sounds like something a defensive Japanese 25-year-old would say in response to "stop playing DotA, it's 2012." File under: things I said to my boyfriend and his laptop-toting crew last night. Where was I? Oh, yes. Should summer ever arrive, rinse your cooked udon in cold water, toss with a little sesame oil to keep them from sticking together, refrigerate and dip in a mix of soy sauce, mirin and rice vinegar for a refreshing happy dance ninja flavor time. At least that's how I think you translate the instructions on this here noodle package...