Japanese Udon Noodles
Expect these noodles to be chewy with a pleasant nuttiness to the flavor. Substituting ¼ cup gluten flour for an equal amount of the white flour can enhance these qualities. Gluten flour is sometimes found in natural-food stores. Kneading is important to the success of these noodles, so the number of minutes matters. The instructions for making the udon is the same as for Italian noodles; refer to Chapter 3, on fresh pasta, for details. The cooking, as described below, however, is definitely Japanese.
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.
In a bowl, combine the salt and water. Place the flour on the work surface and make a well in the center. Pour the water and salt into the well. Incorporate the flour into the water with your fingers until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour; if it is too dry, add a little water. Be frugal with the water, however, because too much will spoil the preferred density of the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl, cover tightly, and let stand for 3 hours. To roll out the dough, divide it in half and follow the directions for fresh pasta in Chapter 3. Udon noodles should be ⅛ to ¼ inch thick.
The Japanese have a way of cooking udon and other fresh noodles that cooks them more evenly. This sashimizu, or “add water,” method is worth trying not only for fresh udon and other Japanese noodles, but for any type of pasta. Bring a large amount of water to boil, enough for the pasta to have plenty of room. Add the noodles slowly so as not to break any. Stir to separate and keep any from sticking to the bottom. When the water comes to a full rolling boil, add 1 cup of cold water. When the water boils again, add another cup of cold water. How often you repeat this sequence depends on when the noodles reach al dente; bite to test often. When the noodles are done, drain and rinse with cold water to remove the starch. They can be reheated for serving by pouring boiling water over them. (Note: Somen should not be doused with cold water, but served immediately after draining.)