Online noodle class on takeout, delivery, and meal kits (vol.1)
In this series, we are sharing the contents we have done on our special noodle classes online. If you’d like to see a recording of this class, please contact us for a link to the recording or check out our YouTube Channel to see if it is available in video. Please visit our YouTube channel by clicking here.
Fighting for noodle restaurants
Ever since we started seeing how COVID-19 affects our customers, especially noodle restaurants, we started thinking hard about how we can help our customers survive and even thrive in this crisis. Because it is difficult to continue to do dining-in business as before, we have to rely more on the business where there’s little risk of the infection. By understanding how people get infected more and more, there’s a few options we have left, but we need to make these options as viable as we can both to consumers and restaurants. These are takeout, delivery, at-home meal kits, and others we still haven’t discovered. Then, our quest is to develop products that are great for these types of businesses.
What may help us survive and thrive in this crisis
In this class, we discuss what types of noodle dishes are great for takeout, delivery, at-home meal kits, and others and dive into how to develop them at your restaurants in details. We believe this is a broad subject that we have to continually study and do research on to further polish and develop more dishes, methods, and operational details as we adopt to the changing new normal, posed by COVID-19. So, this is our first attempt on this subject.
What are the challenges to providing noodle dishes great for takeout and delivery? We are concerned about the following points when it comes to serving noodle dishes for takeout and delivery.
- Difficulty in retaining noodle texture after cooking
- Relying on customers to do a good job of preparing takeout dishes at home – how to make it easy enough for consumers who are not used to cooking or don’t have proper cooking tools
- Soup noodles dishes are generally hard to make into takeout products – e.g. there’s a risk of spilling soup on the way to a customer’s home, reheating the soup at home may change the flavors, etc.
- Cost of takeout and delivery containers/packages, availability of adequate containers
- Create a takeout dish that is as delicious as one experiences at the restaurant
Challenges in noodle dishes great for takeout and delivery
We need to overcome these challenges so that we would be able to create takeout/delivery/at-home-meal-kits businesses as profitable as dining-in business that was our primary mode. Let’s first look at how we can retain noodle textures for longer time.
What makes noodles suitable for takeout?
- Noodles retaining the texture for a while after cooking (What’s important for this point are noodle size, ingredients, temperature, etc.)
- Noodles that go well with a small amount of soup
more suitable for transportation and better help retain the noodle texture
- Short cooking time (when customers cook them at home) what’s critical in keeping the cooking time short are noodle size (thickness x width), hydration ratio
Noodles that can hold the texture for a while
We can make noodles that retain the texture for a while after cooking by adjusting the noodle size, or using certain ingredients, applying a resting process, and controlling the cooking of noodles. So, what is the good noodle texture? It depends on the condition of soup the noodles are coupled with, but generally, the noodles should be chewy, hard, and elastic. To build such noodle textures, we need to study each element that helps hold the noodle texture for a longer time.
We should also understand how noodles get cooked and soggy, so we can control the noodle texture by adjusting the cooking. When cooking noodles, noodles absorb cooking water from the cut surface (rough surface that have been grated by the cutter). Noodle absorb hot water, which penetrates into the core. When certain section of the core remains in the noodles, the noodle texture is said to be al dente or good texture. Noodles also need to be gelatinized (i.e. starch of noodles take up liquid and swell upon heating and becomes clear gel-like texture). Otherwise, noodles are still raw. For gelatinization to happen, noodles need to be cooked at certain temperature, which should be around 98 degrees Celsius. (for more information on this subject, please read the article – “How to cook ramen noodles properly”)
Over time, the hot water permeates the noodles. Then, the noodles are soggy. There’s no longer any bite in the noodles. The heat of hot water helps hot water travel further into the noodles, so it is important to stop the movement of hot water after the noodles are cooked. To do it, we can chill noodles quickly after cooking (after the point of gelatinization) to stop the noodles’ cooking further.
Another way we can make noodles’ texture last longer is to adjust the noodle size, hydration ratio, and changing flours (protein content). This noodle texture correlation chart describes different types of noodles by hydration (horizontal line), protein content of flour (vertical line), and noodle size(s) from thin to thick (top to bottom). For example, Hakata ramen noodles (green circle) are thin and hard noodles (low hydration x high protein x thin noodle size). This is good noodle texture because though it is hard, it is thin as well. If it is soft and thin, that wouldn’t be a good texture. And, if you check dipping noodles (tsukemen), the large yellow circle, this type of noodles is soft but thick in size. (high hydration x low protein x thick noodle size). This type of noodles also gives great noodle texture because it is soft but thick. It wouldn’t be a good texture if the noodles are hard and big in size. It would be just hard to eat. To make noodles with lasting noodle textures, you can make noodle size bigger with concerns over the hardness (hydration x protein content of wheat flour). Making noodle size bigger means increasing of hydration and lowering of protein content. Yet, we should also need to think about the shape (cross-section of noodles). For more information on this subject, you can read the article – “Mastering cutting of ramen noodles”.
Use certain ingredients to retain noodle texture
We can also use certain ingredients to make noodles last longer in soup. One of them is egg white. Egg white provides some water-proofing property and hardness to noodles. This is used especially in thin noodles, which are prone to getting soft fast in hot soup. Basically, to make noodles harder to retain the textures, we can think of using the following ingredients. Gluten, potassium carbonate (part of kansui), and reduction of water or hydration. Using some of them may not result in your ideal noodle textures, so you’d need to understand how each ingredient affects the texture.
Applying resting process
We can store noodles in a resin container with seal on it (to keep them from drying) and refrigerate them for 1-2 nights to remove air bubbles from the noodles. If noodles are not rested sufficiently, the air pockets may burst during cooking, damaging gluten, making noodles prone to getting soft more quickly.
2. Noodles that are good with small amount of soup
It is difficult to carry soup noodle dish securely home. Some may spill and make a mess. Also, if noodles are served in the soup, noodles get soft by the time a customer reaches home. What we can think about is to develop dishes that are great without a lot of soup like standard ramen noodle soup dish.
Certain types of noodles are good with a small amount of soup/sauce.
Mazemen, Aburasoba, Jaja Men, Tsukemen/dipping noodles, Yakisoba – stir-fried noodles, Hiyashi Chuka/cold noodles
What do they have in common? What are the common characteristics?
Size- tends to be bigger (thicker x wider), which leads to higher hydration ratio
Noodle texture – relatively softer but chewier
Developing your own dishes of these types and making them popular among your customer bases may be the key to your successful delivery and takeout business. We can a lot of ideas for these dishes and plan to do classes on them.
3. Short cooking time
In the situations with COVID-19, more and more people stayed home, and a number of people who never cooked at home before became willing to do some cooking in their houses. We can take advantage of this tendency and offer fresh noodles for these customers to cook at home because this is the best option we can give them if they have proper cooking tools (e.g. large pot, etc.) Noodles just cooked are better than taking out cooked noodles, but of course, the customers need to do a good job on cooking. So, we may want to provide a proper cooking instruction. In this case, we should think about shortening the cooking time by adjusting the noodle size (to smaller) and other aspects of noodles we discussed above. Because many customers prefer a shorter cooking time, we should shorten the cooking time as much as we can with great noodle texture retained.
Container for takeout and delivery
Separate containers used for noodles, soup, and toppings
What’s challenging may be to find a container for hot soup – low heat conductivity and seal that does not spill any soup
Encourage customers to bring their own – stockpot, stew pot, etc.
– Instead of charging customers the container fees
With COVID-19 still affecting consumers’ minds and restaurant operations largely across the world, and takeout and delivery businesses will continue to be vital parts of noodle restaurants. With the right knowledge and proper methods and ingredients applied, we can definitely develop a takeout and delivery business that will be the primary or a big part of noodle restaurants. We will continue to study this subject and share new ideas and business practices in our online classes and this blog. If you have any questions or requests for what you’d like to learn, please send us your messages through email or contact form. You can watch some of our online classes by clicking the button below.