Handmade Thick White Noodles

Té Uchi Udon

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • Makes about

    4

    servings.

Appears in

The recipe given here is basically my mother-in-law’s (a noodle maker par excellence!) and after tasting them I think you’ll agree they’re well worth the trouble of making. Serve them in either Fox Noodles or Moon-Viewing Noodles, both of which are soup-and-noodle combinations. Or add them to the flavored broth resulting from any of the one-pot nabé mono on pages 110–118.

Nisshin, a large brand name in Japan, has packaged a combination of unbleached flours under the name té uchi udon senyō komugiko (“flour especially made for handmade noodles”) that is far superior to ordinary flour for this purpose. It is increasingly available at larger Oriental groceries in the West. Do try to find some and use it. If not, make do with all-purpose unbleached flour.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon salt Generous
  • Generous ⅔ cup warm water
  • 3 cups udon flour (plus up to ½ cup for hands, pin and board)

Method

Add the salt to the warm water and stir until dissolved. Put the flour in a large bowl and pour in the salty water. Stir lightly until the mixture is crumbly. Exerting a bit of pressure, form the dough into a ball and place it in a plastic bag to rest for about 30 minutes (or refrigerate it for several hours).

Since great strength is required to make such a stiff dough more pliable, most Japanese use barefoot stamping power in lieu of hand kneading. Sandwich the dough between two large sheets of plastic or place it in the center of a very sturdy plastic bag. Stand barefoot on the plastic and stamp with the whole of your foot, not just the heel. Turn frequently as you stamp until the dough is flat. With your hands, fold the dough into a ball again. Repeat the stamping and folding several times until the dough is smooth and satiny. Finally, stamp the dough out in an oval shape of a uniform ¼-inch thickness. All of this will take about 4–5 minutes for an adult female of average size and weight. If foot stamping is not your style, you’ll have to hand knead 10–15 minutes before palm pressing the dough to an equivalent smoothness and thickness. Of course mechanical kneading with a dough hook or pasta machine is possible—but I find the resulting noodles dense and lacking in that wonderful handmade texture.

Transfer the dough to a large lightly floured board or table top. Alternating vertical and horizontal strokes, roll and stretch the dough into a large oval. Japanese rolling pins have no handles and are much longer and narrower than American ones. Use the longest pin you have and try to roll the dough out to inch thick, 1 foot wide and at least feet long. If this is impossible with your pin, cut the dough in half and roll out two narrower, long pieces. (If you don’t plan on using all the rolled-out dough immediately, wrap some in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 2 weeks. Let the dough return to room temperature before sprinkling it generously with flour.)

Sprinkle the rolled-out dough liberally with flour (1). Then, letting the dough fall off the rolling pin, fold it somewhat like a fan, making 4 or 5 folds (2). Use a long, sharp knife to cut the dough into ¼-inch-thick ribbons. Use the entire cutting edge of the knife, starting with the tip and working into the base of the blade (3). Use quick, light movements to cut into the dough and away from yourself. Do not saw back and forth. Dust the noodles with flour again before lifting from the board (4).

To cook the noodles, bring a very large pot of water to a rapid boil. Lightly shake off excess flour clinging to the noodles before adding them to the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, keeping the water at a boil the entire time. Test a noodle in cold water: it should be translucent and firm but with no hard core. Drain the noodles, rinse them under cold water and drain them again.

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