This report analyses the Japanese market.
1. food hygiene
1.1 Hygiene and its impact on customers
When opening a restaurant, food hygiene is unavoidable.
In the worst case, you may be told by the public health center to cease operations because of the risk of food poisoning if vermin or vermin infestation occurs.
However, it does not mean that you clean up because you are told to.
How will customers feel when they see a dirty restaurant?
If the restaurant is dirty, it is naturally doubtful that the food and cooking are sanitary, isn’t it?
・Will they really be okay to eat there?
・Will they get sick to their stomachs?
If customers feel this way, it is certain that the store will not be able to attract customers.
This is not to say that there are no stores that can attract customers even if they are dirty. However, such stores must be “cheaper” and tastier than other stores, or have long-time regular customers, or have special conditions that may or may not attract customers even under the same conditions.
This is not the place to aim for.
Also, there is a difference between being dirty and being old-fashioned. Even if the exterior and interior are old-fashioned, if they are well cared for, customers will feel comfortable coming to the restaurant.
1.2 General sanitation in the store
You can easily imagine how easy it is to keep the exterior, entrance, tables, floors, etc. clean.
Surprisingly, it is the inside of the kitchen that is looked at.
While ordering food, customers have time to look around the restaurant. If, for example, a day’s supply of chashu pork is cut and left at room temperature, or a skillet is left directly on the floor, one may be concerned about the sanitary conditions.
It is difficult to maintain sanitary conditions at all times, so it is important to occasionally look around the restaurant from the customer’s point of view and check for any deficiencies.
1.3 Sanitation of Noodle Making Machines
Those who display their noodle-making machines in their restaurants to promote their homemade noodles must be especially careful.
Besides being visible to customers, it is important to handle the noodle-making machine in a sanitary manner.
There are two hazards associated with poor sanitation of the noodle-making machine: one is the growth of bacteria. The second is the occurrence of pests and vermin.
First, let’s talk about germs.
To prevent spoilage during storage, vinegar is added in the case of udon noodles and brine in the case of ramen noodles. However, the addition of vinegar does not necessarily prevent spoilage. In other words, if the dough adhering to the gaps between the rolls of the noodle-making machine, the dregs, or the inside of the mixer is left unattended, or if the cutting blade is not cleaned, the old dough will rot and become mixed in with the new dough during noodle-making.
If rancid dough is mixed in, it can cause all new dough to spoil during the aging process.
Not only will the dough become stale, but it can lead to food poisoning in the worst case.
It is also advisable not to keep adding brine to the dough. Although common bacteria are killed by the strong alkalinity of brine, there is a type of bacteria called alkalophilic bacteria that can multiply even in brine.
Although it is a rare case, we sometimes receive a consultation about dough leaking in spite of hygienic noodle making. We interviewed the customer and learned that he keeps brine in a brine container, so we asked him to remake a new container of brine and then make noodles again, and the dough no longer sagged.
Next, let me talk about pests and vermin.
As for fungi, it is difficult to feel the effects of fungi because you cannot see them and in fact, it is difficult for fungi to grow on powdered products unless they are wet.
Pests and vermin are visible and come to food whether it is dry or wet, so they affect not only the area around the noodle-making machine but also the entire store in a visible manner.
Rats and cockroaches are the most common vermin and pests that come in from the outside, but there is one more thing to watch out for.
One pest that is unique to powder is the shivan bug. In appearance, the bug looks like a smaller, brown to black ladybug.
The ladybug can actually be found in the flour itself. Since flour is an agricultural product, it is impossible to completely remove the insects’ eggs and larvae. Therefore, there is an egg-killing process during the manufacturing process. If this egg-killing process is inadequate, insects can develop in the flour during storage.
There is also an infestation from the outside, but if you feel that shivan bugs have been common lately, you may want to contact the flour manufacturer.
2. Thinking scientifically about dirt
2.1 Dirty areas
There are several areas in the noodle making machine where the dough remains.
The most common is in the mixer. Other places where it adheres are the gaps between the rolls, the kasuri, the hold-down rolls, etc., as the dough becomes sticky from the slight moisture that is squeezed out when the dough is loaded.
Also, the dulling of the surface luster of the rolls during ramen noodle making is also a contamination in a sense.
2.2 Thinking scientifically about dirt
Dough stains are flour stains. In other words, protein and starch contamination.
In the case of ramen, brine is added, and when brine is added, there is a distinctive odor, right?
That smell is the result of proteins dissolving in the strong alkalinity of brine.
In other words, protein stains can be dissolved and removed by using brine.
The same is true for starch; the strong alkalinity causes starch to alpha-alpha-alpha-ize, which becomes a glue, and the presence of water in the process dissolves it in water.
If the mixer is operated immediately after use with a sponge containing water, the stain can be removed relatively easily, but if the mixer is left for a while after use for some reason, it is difficult to remove the stain even by the above method. At this time, by dissolving a little brine in the water, both protein and starch will be dissolved in the water and stains can be easily removed.
If you do not use brine, you can boil the water with baking soda dissolved in it once before using it. Baking soda is slightly alkaline, but heating it changes it into a strongly alkaline substance.
This method can be used not only in mixers, but in general when cleaning areas where dough is sticking to the mixer.
It is just a matter of dissolving and using brine instead of water alone.
Next is the dulling of the gloss on the surface of the rolls.
What do you think this is contamination?
The clue is that it occurs during ramen noodle making. Also, when this condition occurs, the roll surface will slide when feeding the dough after mixing, and the dough will not be pulled in properly.
The answer is water stains. It is the same in principle as what makes a water sink turn white. In other words, when dough with a large amount of brine containing metallic components is passed through the rolls on a daily basis, the metallic components of the brine coat the roll surfaces.
The rolls do not have a mirror finish because the dough must be drawn through them. Because of the cutting process, there are small grooves on the surface.
The metallic component of the brine fills these small grooves, making the surface smooth and slippery, and because it is not a completely uniform film, the gloss appears dull.
Since it is a metallic stain, it can be easily removed by wiping with acidic citric acid-dissolved water. Note that even though acidic acid dissolves metal stains, citric acid is only capable of removing a few nm coating on the surface, so it will not dissolve the roll itself.
Our maintenance department used to shave the rolls that had become slippery as part of the reprocessing process, but this required the rolls to be removed, which took more than half a day.
Since the introduction of wiping with citric acid, the rolls do not need to be removed and can be easily cleaned in about 10 minutes. Since there is no need to remove the rolls and pull them up to our company in the first place, the treatment can be done directly at the customer’s store.
Whether brine or citric acid is used, there is one point of caution.
Because the pH is completely different from that of the original use environment, the water must be wiped off after cleaning to ensure that there is no brine or citric acid left on the surface.
If the udon noodles are not thoroughly wiped with water after cleaning with brine, they will turn yellow and smell like ramen noodles.
We have talked about fabric and brine stains.
Alkaline dissolves proteins and acidic dissolves metals.
Alkalinity also dissolves oil (turning it into soap), so it can be applied to grease stains in the cooking area.
Brine is the most alkaline of all the alkaline products around us. Depending on its concentration, it can be as strong as the commercial alkaline cleaning solutions used by cleaners.
When cleaning, it is important to first determine the type of stain. Then, by using something that dissolves the stain, you will be able to remove the stain efficiently.
Our customers who use our noodle-making machines come from all walks of life.
While some customers take good care of their machines as if they were their own children and take good care of them, others, unfortunately, take very little care of their machines and frequently request repairs when they break down.
If our machines are treated with care, they will continue to work even after 20 or 30 years.
It is very painful for our customers, who are usually busy working in their stores, to have to bear the burden of taking care of their noodle-making machines.
We will continue to evolve our noodle-making machines, and at the same time, we will continue our research on improving such cleaning methods.
We wish you all the best.