I decided that I needed to make some homemade udon noodles to properly break in the bowl. It would have been a shame to eat store bought noodles out of such a gorgeous handmade vessel! Udon noodles are one of the many varieties of noodles found in Japan. Udon are the thickest of the noodles and are made by kneading wheat flour, salt, and water together. Udon can be eaten hot or cold and are cooked in a variety of ways. We love udon, and while living in Japan we often visited our favorite udon restaurant in Tokyo.
My favorite bowl of udon was nabeyaki udon—udon noodles in a flavorful broth made from dashi and chicken stock, and filled with lots of vegetables, poached chicken, tempura shrimp, and a poached egg. Mr. Fuji’s favorite bowl of udon was “creamy udon”—the noodles were served in a creamy white soup.
For my handmade noodles, I decided to make Kake Udon—udon served in a broth, made from dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and topped with sliced scallions. This is a simple preparation that celebrates the wonderful flavor of the handmade noodles. Handmade noodles are like homemade bread—they are SO MUCH BETTER than the store bought version.
Take it from me, homemade udon makes for a very happy family!
How To Make Handmade Udon Noodles
Making udon noodles is a simple process. You start by mixing wheat flour (I use a combination of bread flour and all-purpose flour), water and salt in a bowl. The dough at this point is very rough and shaggy.
Then you begin to knead the dough by hand. The dough will slowly come together into a more cohesive ball.
Then you put the dough in a large ziploc bag, and wrap the bag in a thick towel.
This is where the fun really begins. Now you get to do the rest of the kneading with your feet! If you have kids that are anything like Squirrel, they will love helping with the kneading.
You could continue kneading with your hands, but the stiff dough becomes soft and pliable much quicker through using your feet! The kneading helps give the noodles their wonderful chewy texture. You knead the dough this way by walking on it with your whole foot (not just your heel) and turning as you go, so that all of the dough is worked on. You alternate kneading and then rolling the dough out,
and folding it. The more you knead and fold, the smoother and neater your dough will become, and you can work towards forming it into a rectangle.
Then you knead it one more time and leave it in the bag, wrapped in the towel, to rest for 3 to 4 hours. After the dough has rested, you shape the dough into a ball,
put it back in the bag and knead it one last time. Then you roll out the flattened dough, trying to make it roughly rectangular in shape. Then you fold it into thirds, and use a sharp knife to slice it into1/8″–1/4″ ribbons. I made our slices a bit thicker because Mr. Fuji loves thick chewy noodles.
Then you add the noodles to a pot of boiling water, using some chopsticks to lightly stir the noodles and help separate them. After the noodles have cooked for about 6 minutes, and are translucent and firm without a hard core, drain the noodles and then rinse them under cold running water so that they cool rapidly, and continue rinsing them to ensure that all the starch is removed from the surface. Don’t worry if your noodles aren’t perfect—they will still look beautiful and be delicious!
Once your noodles are done, you separate them into bowls and pour hot broth over them, top them with sliced scallions, and add a bit of shichimi togarashi if you want a bit of spice! The chewy noodles are delicious with the simple broth, and you’ll find they quickly disappear.
Handmade Udon Noodles
Recipe adapted from Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking, by Harumi Kurihara
Makes 4 servings
4 teaspoons salt
8 ounces (1 cup) warm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
bread flour, for dusting (in step 6)
1. Add the salt to the warm water and stir until it has dissolved. Put the bread flour and all-purpose flour in a large bowl, and whisk the flours together.
2. Pour the salty water into the bowl with the flour. Using your hands, mix the flour and water together lightly until the mixture is crumbly. Pull the dough up from the bottom of the bowl and press down, and repeat until the flour and water are well combined and a rough ball is formed.
3. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it forcefully on a board for 5-10 minutes until the dough has smoothed out and a lumpy ball is formed.
4. Transfer the dough to a large plastic ziploc bag, and then wrap the bag in a thick towel. Put it on the floor and walk on it with flat feet (not just the heel). Turn as you walk, so that all the dough gets flattened. When the dough feels flat, remove the dough from the bag and roll it out. Then fold it up, put it back into the bag and repeat the process. The should become more and more smooth with each repeat. Repeat 3 or 4 times. On the last repeat, leave the dough in the bag, wrapped in the towel, and let it rest for 3 to 4 hours (during the winter, leave it in a warm place).
5. When the dough is done resting, take it out of the bag, reshape it into a ball, then return it to the bag and walk on it one last time. Try to spread the dough with your feet, turning around 360 degrees.
6. Dust your work surface with a bit of bread flour, then place the flattened dough on top and roll it out, working from the middle out. Rotate the dough 45 degrees and repeat until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick, and approximately a rectangle measuring about 1 foot wide by at least 1 1/2 feet long.*
7. Dust the top of the dough with bread flour and then fold it into thirds. Using a long sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch thick ribbons. If the dough gets very sticky, dust it again with bread flour. Dust the noodles with bread flour before moving them from the work surface.
8. Cook the noodles: Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rapid boil. Lightly shake any excess flour from the noodles and add them to the boiling water. Using cooking chopsticks, or a wooden spoon, stir the noodles to prevent them from sticking to each other. Cook the noodles for 6 — 7 minutes, or until they are translucent and firm without a hard core. Drain the noodles in a sieve and rinse under cold running water so they cool rapidly.
9. Once the noodles are cool enough to handle, separate them with your hands and rinse them again in cold water to make sure that all of the starch is removed.
*Rolled out dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Bring the dough to room temperature before sprinkling it with flour and continuing on with step 7.
Makes 4 servings
For the mentsuyu sauce:
1 cup water
2 cups soy sauce
1 1/2 cups mirin
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1.8 ounces katsuobushi (dried fish flakes)
6 3/4 cups dashi
1 batch udon noodles (recipe above, or enough store bought noodles for 4 servings)
finely sliced scallions, to taste
shichimi togarashi or chili powder, to taste (optional)
1. Make the mentsuyu sauce: In a large pot, combine the water, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, and add the katsuobushi. When the mixture comes to a boil again, turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 2 minutes. Then strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, or a sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, and discard the katsuobushi. Pour the mentsuyu into a sterilized container. (It will keep for approximately 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.)
2. Separate the udon noodles into 4 separate deep bowls.
3. Mix the dashi with 1/3 cup of the prepared mentsuyu and heat over high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat off and pour it over the udon noodles. Sprinkle with scallions and shichimi togarashi, to taste and serve.