Making Udon Noodles is Child's Play
Sensei Awesome, which is the nickname we have given my daughter’s teacher, invited the parents to come for a day of udon noodle making at school. I hadn’t read the memo properly and was the only parent without an apron and head scarf. But Sensei Awesome let me stay anyway.
garapa dish on Flickr
The desks were arranged into tables covered with newspaper. Each had four bags, four bottles with measurements marked on the side, four cutting boards, and four rolling pins. We washed and sanitized our hands in anticipation.
In a stroke of organizational genius, each child was given a small but sturdy plastic bag filled with 200 grams of white wheat flour. They had to add 100 milliliters of saltwater, pre-mixed with about a teaspoon per 100 milliliters of water. Each bag would yield two servings, but not without some effort.
We began to squish. First we crumbled, then we smooshed, then we patted and shaped. Hard balls of udon noodle dough started to form and where necessary, we tipped in a bit more flour or salted water.
We briefly brought the dough out of its bag to pat it flat then knead it again. Springy balls were forming nicely but for tasty udon, you cannot scrimp on the squishing stage.
And so we put the dough back in the bags, double-bagged these with larger and even tougher bags, and we stomped and stomped with our feet. Once the dough was flattened, we would take it out, fold it back into a lump, and resume stomping. The fold-stomp-fold-stomp kneading routine went on for some time.
Once we had reached the perfect blend of firm, soft and springy, we all rolled our udon dough into flat rectangles. It felt silky and cool to the touch. We folded the rectangles length-ways into narrow sleeves, and with guidance the students mastered udon noodle cutting. They wielded knives as sharp as any in my house.
Jun Seita on Flickr
We put the cut noodles in a bowl and shook them in a little flour so they would not stick. Once every shred of udon dough was cut into a narrow ribbon, it was taken away while we cleaned the classroom.
Students and parents then played a few group games like `What’s the time Mr Wolf’ and musical chairs. We also played a fabulous game where half of us linked arms and the other half tried to break our hold and drag children and parents away. Before long, we smelled something appetizing.
We all rushed to our seats and sat up straight. A large bowl of cooked, drained, homemade udon noodles was placed at each table. The parents helped divide the noodles between us hungry cooks and we took them to a pot of hot, savoury broth. For a while we communicated only in slurps and smiles.
Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr
Udon happens to be my favorite Japanese noodle and I order it most times I see it on a menu. I can honestly say the udon noodles made that day by class three of first grade at Furano Elementary School were the best, firmest, freshest, most delicious udon noodles on the planet.
Of course, I might be a little bit biased.