Homemade Japanese Udon Noodles...Introduction to Japanese Cooking( PART 1).... I was adventurous this past week, and made some homemade udon noodles. Have you ever had Japanese udon noodles? If you like any type of pasta, you will love the Japanese udon noodles. They are a thick-ish pasta with a chewy sort of texture to it. The udon noodles are wonderful in soups, salads, and even in stir-fries. What better way than to actually make them at home....
Did you know that you make udon noodles by kneading the dough with your feet? Yes, with your feet! Since the udon dough is a pretty stiff dough, it can be kind of hard to do the actual kneading by hand. Well it turns out that it's much better to knead the dough using your body weight. That's where your feet come into play. Ok, before you think that it's a crazy idea...and that you are not going to do such a thing...just hear me out. You don't actually touch the dough with your feet.. you cover the dough with some sort of plastic, usually a large plastic bag. Then, and only then, do you actually stomp on it. Neat?... I thought so :). It would be wonderful if you had a couple of kids to do the job for you:)... Divide the dough in two and give each child a piece. Before you know it, you have some homemade udon dough that is ready to be rolled out. In case you are interested in the foot stomping method you can read the instructions found HERE. Anyway, the idea was so interesting to me, that I decided to try it out myself. Could I achieve making udon noodles at home? I really wanted to give this recipe a try...I had nothing to lose except a bit of time, some flour and water. That's right, udon noodles are simply made from flour, salt, and water....ok, some may use tapioca starch. But I didn't...
Well, I have to admit I had a bit of difficulty with the recipe. I always read the entire recipe(from beginning to end) once or twice...maybe even three times. But this time around, I looked at the ingredient list and noticed the recipe asked for 3 1/2 cups flour....so I immediately measured the flour and placed it in my mixer bowl. Somehow, I overlooked an important step in the directions. The actual directions had you measure out 3 cups of flour .... instead of 3 1/2 cups! My dough was quite stiff...way too stiff and dry. I stomped and stomped on it and it wouldn't knead. I lost my patience and decided to plop the dough in my mixer. I then started adding some water, 1 TBS at a time....to sort of get it moving and become more malleable. I still had a stiff dough at this point. I knew it was essential to have a stiff dough in order to have the udon noodle attain its chewy characteristic. I proceeded to knead it until it got be elastic and sort of satiny. From then on, I followed the recipe with no problem. But, I was still perplexed and decided to look over the recipe again. Why did I have to adjust the water? It was then that I noticed my mistake with the flour amount. Hmmm....I guess the extra 1/2 cup of flour was listed to adjust the dough. In case the dough was too sticky or when rolling it out....at least that is what I think it was used for. Anyway, I am listing a range for the flour amount. You can start with 3 cups and adjust the flour as needed. Despite my mistake, the final product was amazing! I ended up using the udon noodles in a Japanese hotpot( Part 2 coming), a stir-fry, and even dressed the noodles with a bit of oil(try sesame oil), chives and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Hope you enjoy...
3 -3 1/2 cups bread flour
3/4 cups warm water
1 TBS salt
Mix the warm water with salt until the salt is dissolved. In a mixer or food processor bowl, add the flour. Turn on the food processor(using the kneading blade) and using a slow and steady stream, pour the salted water through the feed tube until the dough forms in a slightly(not too crumbly) crumbly mass. You should be able to gather the dough and form into a ball. You might need to press it together. Place it in a closed plastic bag and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. You can also refrigerate the dough... to knead it later(even overnight).
Knead the dough:by using the feet stomping method or by kneading it in the mixer/food processor.
I tried the foot stomping method , but noticed my dough was too dry( I originally added the 3 1/2 cups flour instead of 3 cups as per directions..no wonder why the dough was too dry!). I switched to the dough hook on my mixer and added a bit more warm water...1 TBS at a time to adjust the consistency of the dough. I then kneaded the dough until it was elastic and satiny...the dough is quite stiff, but as you knead it it should become elastic....took about 5 minutes or so. Stretch the dough to feel the elasticity...it shouldn't tear. The dough should feel stiff and elastic at the same time...definitely not sticky. As a comparison...I noticed the udon dough to be a bit stiffer than a traditional pasta dough.
Place the dough on a large, lightly floured board. With a rolling pin, stretch the dough into a large oval, about 1/8-inch thick. Since the udon dough is stiffer and a bit harder to roll out, I opted to cut smaller pieces. I then started rolling each individual piece...instead of the whole dough. Roll the dough in an oval shape. You might need to let it rest a few minutes if you find that it is too stiff to roll out.
Sprinkle the rolled-out dough with flour, and fold it back on itself(once or twice). Don't crease the fold. Use a long, sharp knife to cut the dough into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Lightly dust the noodles with flour so they won't stick together.
To cook the noodles:
Bring a very large pot of water to a rolling boil. Shake off excess flour from the noodles and place them into the pot. Stir the noodles so they separate into individual strands. Cook the noodles for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test a noodle by placing it into cold water: It should be translucent, but still firm.
It is important to rinse the noodles well under cold running water to remove the starch. It will make the noodles gummy. The cold water also makes the noodle have that chewy texture.
You can refrigerate for later use... you can rinse noodles in boiling hot water if serving them in hot dishes...such as soups and stir-fries. Rinse them in cold water if serving them chilled as a salad.