The monk hopped from rock to rock, the waves crashing beneath him. He knew the path well and we hurried to keep up without falling into the swell below. ‘Don’t you know?’ he said, ‘don’t you understand?’. The old copper kettle was whisked away from us and plunged into the sea by Jiho-san, a monk of Shoganji Temple in Ojuki. ‘This is how you make udon noodles. This is the secret.’
In a white cloud of dust, the flour was thrown into a large ceramic pot with the seawater poured over the top in routine fashion; no measurements needed.
The secret, we are told, lies in the salt to water ratio of the seawater; it creates the perfect udon noodle recipe. Living near the sea, the water is a quick, easy and free ingredient that gives the udon noodles a unique flavour; distinctly different to the recipe we learned from the udon master in Shikoku.
The dough is kneaded by foot before resting in the ceramic pot, while a large pasta machine caked in flour from years of heavy use is brought out and plonked onto sheets of newspaper strewn on the wooden floor boards. Sections of dough are then rolled through the machine before being sliced into noodles.
The noodles are scooped out into large serving bowls with a small bowl of dipping sauce for each person at the table.
The base of soy sauce and water is sweetened with dried carrot slices, and a splash of fresh kabosu lime juice gives a nice citrus burst. Freshly picked spring onion, grated daikon and ginger are added to the bowls.
Ground toasted sesame and hot pepper are optional additions for those with adventurous taste buds.
Preparing these noodles not only made for a fresh and delicious meal but it was a lot of fun as well! We enjoyed working together with our new friends at the temple and enjoying the benefits of our hard work over some great conversation.
How to Eat Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are nice and versatile and can be eaten in many different ways, however at the temple, a simple approach is preferred and so the noodles were served cold with the delicious dipping sauce. They can be eaten hot in winter for a nice warming meal, or can also be served cold during the summer for a refreshingly cool dish.
- To eat them cold, rinse them in cold water and serve in a large bowl. Each person should then pick up some noodles with chopsticks and dunk into the sauce. Slurping is not just accepted, it’s encouraged!
- If you feel like a hot meal, leave the noodles in a bowl full of hot water in the centre of the table before dunking a few at a time in the sauce.
- If you prefer, you can transfer a batch of noodles into your bowl at once rather than picking up just a few at a time.
Udon noodles are addictive and it’s very hard to stop eating them in our opinion. If there are udon noodles in the bowl they will very quickly be eaten!
Are you a fan of udon noodles? Tell us what ways you enjoy eating them – we’d love to hear from you!
Udon Noodles Recipe - Temple Style
Chewy udon noodles made by hand (or shall we say foot!). This recipe comes to you from deep in the mountains of Shikoku, Japan.
- 1.8 kilos white flour
- 200 ml seawater approx see: Notes
- 200 ml soy sauce
- 400 ml water
- 100 ml sake
- handful dried carrot slices
- 4 or 5 spring onions thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp grated daikon or substitute with turnip, parsnip or radish
- 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1-2 tsp hot pepper mix
- 1-2 tsp kabosu lime juice or plain lime juice
- 1-2 tsp roughly ground toasted sesame seed
For the Noodles
Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and pour in the seawater or salt water gradually so that you don’t pour too much. Mix with your fingertips until the dough obtains a fluffy texture and feathery appearance. Note: the amount of water needed will change according to the consistency of your flour and even other factors such as air temperature. The key here is to get the right consistency for the dough, so add the water in small amounts until you are satisfied, ensuring that the dough remains quite dry and does not become sticky. The end result should be fairly dense, able to be formed a ball shape while still remaining dry and appear slightly flaky. If you think it looks a little too dry and not quite all mixed together, you’ve probably achieved the perfect consistency.
Begin to knead the dough into a rough ball shape and use your knuckles to push down into the centre of the dough. Fold the dough over and push again. Repeat a few times and gradually form into a dough ball.
Transfer the dough into a plastic bag and place on the floor. Using your feet and body weight push down on the dough and knead further. Spread out into a flat circle shape then fold over inside the bag and repeat. (According to Jiho-san you should do this at least 20 times for the dough to reach a smooth and firm consistency. If you are feeling lazy be sure to invite some friends over to help – there will be plenty of noodles to share!)
Take the dough out of the plastic bag and fold up into a slab. Wrap the dough in a moist cloth or towel and allow to rest for 30 to 40 minutes.
Coat the dough in flour and cut into chunks suitable to go through the pasta machine. Check your pasta machine’s directions for further instructions if required.
Starting on the widest setting, run each piece of dough through the machine 4 or 5 times, folding in half lengthways each time. Change to a thinner setting and run the dough through a few more times until you reach a thickness of about 5mm or so.
Cut the sheets into 30cm lengths.
Run each sheet through the slicer of your pasta machine to cut the dough into noodle strips, similar to the fettuccine setting.
Add the noodles straight into a large pot of boiling water and cook until noodles are soft. Remove any bubbles from the top of the water using a ladle. Keep a container of cold water nearby, you can add some to the pot occasionally to prevent the water boiling over.
Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water. Transfer into a large bowl and serve with the dipping sauce. Alternatively, serve them hot in a ladleful or two of the water from the pot.
For the Dipping Sauce
Add the soy, water and dried carrots to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Take off the heat and add the sake.
Ladle the sauce into small serving bowls for each person.
Add a small handful of sliced spring onion to each bowl.
Each person should add 1 to 2 heaped teaspoons of daikon (or turnip etc) and ginger to each bowl according to taste.
Add a sprinkling of sesame powder and hot pepper powder according to taste and heat preference.
Add a squeeze of kabosu or lime juice.
This recipe uses seawater however you can substitute with water and salt if you prefer. Try to find a sea salt for a more authentic flavour. Jiho-san was not too worried about measurements; a pinch of this, a big pour of that… Therefore we have given our best estimates in terms of amounts in our ingredients lists below. Feel free to follow your intuition and add a bit more or a bit less of each ingredient if desired. Let us know how you go!