Teuchi Udon or Soba
Using only all-purpose white flour, the result is udon-type noodles; soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour and wheat flour at a ratio of about 4 buckwheat to 1 wheat. These noodles can be frozen. Cook after defrosting.
4 pounds (1-3/4 kg) — 6 servings
To prepare: Dissolve salt in cold water. (If using eggs, beat yolks, mix with water, then dissolve salt in this mixture.) Make a well in the center of the flour and gradually work in the liquid with your hands to make a stiff dough. This recipe is based on standard Japanese flours. Adjust the amount of liquid to the flour you use. Knead vigorously until dough is smooth and soft but firm—"like your earlobe," is the traditional Japanese guide. Cover with a damp kitchen cloth and let rest 8 hours in winter or 3 hours in summer for the best results, but 2 hours are adequate.
On a flour-dusted board or pastry cloth, roll out dough in an even width (a rectangular shape, not a round) till 1/8-inch (1/2-cm) thick or slightly thinner, as shown. Sprinkle sheet of rolled-out dough with flour and fold as shown. Cut with a sharp knife or cleaver across the folded sheet into 1/8-inch (1/2-cm) strips. After cutting, insert a long chopstick or long skewer into the center fold and shake out the strands.
Udon noodles can be frozen or will keep refrigerated for 3-4 days in a closed container. Soba are more delicate—the flavor does not keep well. See below for cooking directions.
Besides udon, soba, and somen, which are the three most commonly used Japanese noodles, there are others, which are not noodles. Harusame ("spring rain") is made from various starches and comes in the form of fine, translucent filaments. Shirataki ("white waterfall"), a transparent, ropy, gelatinous filament often used in sukiyaki or other one-pot dishes, is made from the starchy root of the devil's tongue plant, konnyaku. Both harusame and shirataki are made by an extrusion process, not cut with a knife. They are often called vermicelli, an unfortunate misnomer. They do not fit any Western category, so they are called filaments in this book—not the best word, but adequate.
As mentioned above, the instant noodle preparations gaining worldwide attention are the result of Japanese ingenuity, but the type of noodle is Chinese and is not a part of Japanese cuisine. Like fried rice, fried noodles (yakisoba), too, are Chinese, not Japanese, though part of the ambience of every Japanese festival (as is cotton candy).
There are two places to look for noodles in a Japanese store: dried noodles are on the grocery shelf; both fresh uncooked and cooked ones are in the refrigerator case. You may at first feel overwhelmed by the wide selection of packaged noodles to chose from (this is certainly true in Japan), but merely pick out the basic kind of noodle you want—udon, somen, soba, or whatever. There are many regional variations, and manufacturers often specialize in one noodle for which they have become famous. There are thus any number of different sobas or udons, etc. Outside Japan, the variety is less, and the choice is easier.
Cooked noodles do not freeze well and must be used within 1 or 2 days of purchase; uncooked fresh udon noodles keep 2 weeks refrigerated and also freeze well; dried noodles keep indefinitely. Manufacturers of fresh cooked noodles in Japan often include concentrated noodle broth (to be mixed with hot water) and other seasonings in plastic packets, in cans, or in some form.
Before going on to some noodle recipes, a description of how to cook both freshly made and dried noodles will be helpful. It the package includes its own directions, follow them, or use this basic method:
Bring about 2 quarts (2 L) unsalted water to a rolling boil in a large pot. There should be enough water and the pot should be big enough so that the noodles are not crowded and boiling water circulates around them—just as with any pasta. Add noodles to boiling water gradually so as not to stop the boiling entirely. Stir slowly to keep noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Let water come to a full rolling boil again, then add 1 cup cold water. Repeat this 3-4 times, and cook until noodles are a bit tenderer than al dente. To test, remove a strand from the boiling water, run it under cold water, and bite into it. The noodle should be cooked through to the center (no hard core), but still quite firm. Test frequently to avoid overcooking. Drain noodles in a colander and rinse under cold running water, rubbing vigorously with the hands to remove surface starch.
To reheat cooked noodles, place in a colander or deep, handled sieve and plunge into a pot of boiling water just until heated. Separate strands by shaking the colander or sieve.
Noodles, if not served floating in a mild broth, are almost always eaten with a slightly stronger-flavored dipping sauce. Since both the broth (kake-jiru), literally "soup for pouring on," and dipping sauce (tsuke-jiru), freely rendered, "soup on the side" are standard recipes, they are included here. Take time to master the noodle broth (kake-jiru), for its flavor naturally affects the flavor of the whole dish, and an overseasoned broth as well as an insipid one can dim the experience of good noodles, homemade or otherwise.
Used with udon and soba noodles. This recipe is a general guideline—change it to your taste.
To prepare: In a large pot, bring dashi just to a boil over medium-high heat, and season with other ingredients. Remove and strain. Keep at a low simmer and use hot. You may prepare this noodle broth in advance, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container in which it will keep up to 3 days.
When making broth to use with soba noodles, increase the quantity of dark soy sauce to taste.
Primarily for soba noodles.
To prepare: In a medium-sized pot, mix all ingredients except bonito flakes and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the bonito flakes and immediately remove from heat. Wait about 10 seconds, till flakes are thoroughly soaked, and strain. Let liquid cool to room temperature to use.
You may prepare this dipping sauce in advance. In a covered container, it will keep several months refrigerated.
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This page created April 2007
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