When it comes to noodles, udon is one of my favourites: thick, smooth, and full of flavour and plenty of bite, they’re super satisfying in a way I haven’t encountered in other types of noodles. I love eating udon a variety of ways, whether it be in piping hot soup, cold and dipped in sauce, or stir fried with meat and vegetables. And, now that we’re well into the fall season of cool and crisp weather, I thought that this would be a perfect time to share the wonders of udon with you!
On the anime food landscape, udon pops up with a regular frequency, usually in the form of soup noodles garnished with all sorts of toppings, from softly poached eggs and crispy tempura, to triangles of aburaage (deep fried tofu skin) and piles of diced green onions. But, while there’s plenty of instances of prepared udon dishes, what about making the noodles themselves?
Well, I had never really thought about making noodles from scratch before… Udon noodles are often found in your typical supermarket, as well as widely available in Asian stores, so I never really felt a need to make them myself…. That is, until I saw episode 19 of Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai), where the astronomer Sharon shows the young Namba and Hibito how to make udon from scratch! Namba uses udon to help bond with his teammates during the astronaut admissions test, making for a very touching and fun episode.
Surprisingly accurate, this episode of Space Brothers shows how to make udon step-by-step, and after seeing it, I just knew that I had to try making it myself!
About the recipe:
The only thing to make note of is the method of placing the dough in a sealable plastic bag and kneading it with, of all things, your feet! No shoes (but socks are okay) for this step since you wouldn’t want to inadvertently poke holes in your bag and get the dough dirty!
Why knead with your feet? Well, udon dough can be a bit stiff to work with, so to save your arms from the burden of kneading, it’s a good idea to instead use your body weight to do the work for you! While kneading, the dough will spread out and become flatter as you step on it, so it’s good to open up the bag and fold the dough over (usually into quarters). Reseal the bag and continue stepping! The more kneading, the smoother the noodles will be.
After kneading the dough and letting it rest, it’s time to make the noodles! To do so, all you do is roll out the dough into a long rectangle shape. When the dough it the correct thickness, fold it into quarters to make it more manageable, then take a sharp knife and cut the dough into noodles of your desired thickness. Unfold the noodles and you’re ready to cook them up!
Since the noodles are handmade, they won’t be totally uniform or perfect, and there may be some thicker spots where the dough was folded over and pressed or pinched while cutting. But, that’s really the charm of homemade noodles… And besides, you probably won’t notice too much since you’ll be too busy slurping them up to care!
A few quick tips:
- When cutting the noodles, I like to transfer the folded dough to a cutting board in order to avoid cutting my counter.
- For added length, you can also give the noodles a little stretch by gently pulling at either ends of the noodles.
- If your noodles are sticking, sprinkle a bit of flour on them, but make sure to shake off the excess before cooking them up. This technique also works for the dough before you fold it up and cut it.
- When cooking the noodles, ensure that the water is boiling before adding the noodles. Also ensure there is enough water in your pot so that the noodles cook properly, and do not clump together or make the water overly starchy. May need to be cooked in more than one batch.
About the ingredients:
Flour, salt and water: udon uses three super common ingredients that are almost sure to be somewhere in your kitchen as you read this post…. Without further ado, let’s get going with the recipe!
Makes 4 servings of noodles
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp warm water
- 1 tsp salt
1. Completely dissolve salt in warm water. Combine flour and salt water together in a bowl, mixing until a shaggy, somewhat dry ball forms.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 – 10 minutes. The dough should be pliable but somewhat dry.
Place dough in a large sealable plastic bag. Press the excess air out of the bag and seal. Step on the dough using your feet (no shoes, but socks are okay) and continue kneading the dough, opening the bag to fold the dough over in half or quarters when it becomes flattened. Knead using your feet for 10 – 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, reform the dough into a round, boule shape. Place back into the plastic bag, seal, and set aside. Let rest at room temperature for 4 – 6 hours.
3. Remove dough from the plastic bag. Roll the dough into a long, rectangular shape, about 1/8 inch thick, using a rolling pin.
Dust dough with flour and gently fold into thirds. Do not press the layers of dough together. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/8 inch strips.
Unfold the noodles. For added length, gently stretch the noodles by gently pulling at either end of the strands. Cover with a damp cloth if not immediately cooking noodles.
4. Place noodles into a large pot of rapidly boiling water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 12 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the noodles. Taste to test for doneness.
Remove from boiling water and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain excess water.
Cooked udon can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Briefly place in boiling water to loosen and warm the noodles before using.
Serve in your favourite udon dish.