Seven ironclad rules for making delicious udon – winning strategies for udon and soba shops for shop owners who want to make more profit: chapter 4

This report analyses the Japanese market.

Chapter 3: Polarisation between profitable and unprofitable shops? What are the factors? Zuva: It is the power of the product, i.e. the taste! This is a continuation of the chapter 3.

Finally, in this chapter, I will discuss the seven ironclad rules for making delicious udon noodles, based on my experience of over 40 years and the know-how of Sanuki, the home of udon.

Iron rule 1 for making tasty udon noodles: Knead in the morning, and beat immediately

Firstly, with regard to “kneading in the morning and immediately hitting the rice”, Kagawa Prefecture has long been a suitable place for the cultivation of wheat flour, so wheat cultivation was prosperous and milling was carried out using water wheels.
It is said that the dumpling-like food made from kneaded wheat flour eventually became an easy-to-eat noodle line, which is said to have become udon.

The waterwheel milling was used to grind the flour, which meant that the whole wheat grain was ground into wholemeal flour.
Whole wheat flour is ground from the whole wheat grain, so it contains the darker outer parts of the grain and is rich in minerals, but it also contains more impurities, has higher enzyme activity and requires little or very little ripening time.

However, the majority of wheat used in Japan today for noodles is imported from Australia, and only special and first-class flour from the centre of the wheat is used, so despite being unbleached, it has a pure white colour.
As a result, the enzyme activity is low and unless sufficient ripening time is taken, the true taste of the flour cannot be brought out by the enzyme action.
In short, the first problem is that without ripening, the taste cannot be improved due to poor enzyme action.

The traditional method of making Sanuki udon has always been to knead the udon in the morning, without any ripening time. In the past, in Kagawa Prefecture, it was the noodle-making industry that produced the udon balls, and udon restaurants did not make the noodles themselves, but bought the noodles made by the noodle-making industry, heated them up and served them.
The noodle-making industry kneaded the flour from early in the morning, stamped it with their feet, rolled the dough into dumplings, stamped it thinly with their feet like a cushion, rolled it with a rolling pin, cut it with a knife and boiled it in a boiling pot.
The noodles have to be finished in the morning before being delivered to udon shops and retail outlets. The noodles were also characterised by the fact that they took almost no time to ripen.

This was possible because we used whole wheat flour from waterwheel milling as described above, but the wheat we use today has low ash content and low enzyme activity, making it impossible to produce a good product.

So today, at San Tako, the first ripening after mixing is two hours at 28°C and three hours at 25°C, while the second ripening after pressing is one night at 18°C and two nights at 16°C. These temperature conditions are only available for a short period of time during the year – mid-May and for a week or two at the end of September/October.

This is why we were the first in the industry to develop the concept of ripening and establish the relationship between ripening time and ripening temperature. We then developed and began selling a ripening chamber, Neitaro, which allows anyone to control the ripening process easily and precisely.

The need for ageing is gradually becoming more recognised these days, but we often hear of cases where people make terrible mistakes because they are not aware of the exact relationship between temperature and time. For example, ripening is carried out in the refrigerator.

Maturing cannot be done in a refrigerator. This is because the temperature is too low and cannot be accurately controlled. The control of dough temperature is very sensitive.
For example, have you ever been to a spa and checked how many times the water is just right and how many times it is too hot (so hot that you cannot continuously sit in the bathtub with the hot water)?
Surprisingly, the temperature difference is only two degrees. Usually, the right temperature of hot water is 40-41 degrees Celsius, while hot water is 42-43 degrees Celsius. We would like you to check this carefully the next time you visit a spa.

And these ripening conditions, which we have discovered on our own, happen to be the same as the fermentation conditions of the bread-making process using natural yeast and natural fermentation, which has been practised in Europe for a long time.
The fact that bread and udon noodles made from the same flour have the same ripening conditions can only be thought of as following some common principle.

However, even today, this method of ‘morning kneading and immediate pounding’ has been handed down to the handmade udon shops in Kagawa Prefecture.
There are still more important elements hidden in the maturing process. The first and second stages of ripening have the following additional important effects

1st maturation
The water is completely absorbed into every particle of the kneaded flour. (1st ripening only)

2nd maturation
Stress (internal stress) generated in the dough during the mixing or forging process is completely removed.

When force is applied to the noodle dough during the mixing or forging process, internal stress is generated within the dough. Noodle dough, like humans, is a living organism.
After working hard every day, humans need to get enough sleep to release the stress that has built up in order to stay healthy.
The equivalent of sleep for humans is maturation in noodle dough.
Just as sufficient sleep is essential for creating (and maintaining) a healthy human being, sufficient ripening is necessary for making tasty noodles.

The gluten in freshly mixed or freshly forged dough is tense, and if more force is applied continuously (forging), the gluten tissue cannot withstand the force and is broken or severed. It is always important to rest the dough to allow the gluten to relax. In other words, the principle is that the dough should be “worked and rested, worked and rested”.

Gluten is a chewing-gum-like substance (in fact, it is even more difficult to stretch than chewing gum). If the gluten is stretched all at once, it cannot withstand the force and the gluten tissue breaks off.
Such mixing, dough working and rolling methods should be avoided.

Dough before ripening
Image of gluten and starch grains

Once force is applied, the ripening time allows the tense gluten to relax and withstand the next forging (tissue deformation). There is a common superstition that the more you train udon noodles, the firmer they become, but this is not true.

To be precise, it is better to “forge the udon moderately, let it rest and let the gluten loosen before the next processing”.
The sufficient and necessary ripening conditions are the temperature and time mentioned above.

Iron rule 2 for making tasty udon noodles: flour

The second point is flour, which accounts for the largest specific weight of the raw materials.
Flour is made up mainly of protein, starch and water, and is classified as strong, medium or light flour according to its protein content.
Flour used for udon noodles is called medium-strength flour, which usually contains 8-9% protein. When making udon, salt water is added to the flour, about half the weight of the flour, to form a dough.

When water is added to the wheat protein, it forms a sticky, glue-like substance called gluten. This gluten is sticky at room temperature, but when it is boiled (heated) into noodles, it becomes hard and rigid due to its protein content.

This is best illustrated by imagining you are boiling an egg.
Eggs are a mass of protein. Before boiling, i.e. at room temperature, they are sticky, but after boiling they harden and harden.
Thus, protein is sticky at room temperature, but at high temperatures it becomes hard, brittle and irreversible.

Conversely, the other main ingredient, starch, is silky at room temperature, but becomes sticky when it is boiled into noodles (imagine making glue with starch like katakuriko flour).

Even today, the amount of gluten is often cited as an indicator of the quality of flour, but gluten is a substance that determines the strength of the dough when making noodles, and the stickiness of udon or noodles lies in the difference in viscoelasticity of the starch.
Having discovered that the viscosity of this starch has a significant impact on the texture of udon, San Sho carefully selects the most viscous flours.
Generally, the viscoelasticity of flour is expressed as an amylo value. For udon, we recommend flour with an amylo value of 850 bu or higher.

Iron rule 3 for making good udon noodles: water

With regard to water, our research into all types of water has shown that soft water is the most suitable for noodle-making.
Soft water is water with zero hardness, which means it has good permeability to flour, is resistant to spoilage, speeds up the boiling process and slows down the boiling process.

In Japan, the average hardness of tap water is about 50 ppm. However, in some places the hardness exceeds 350 ppm.
When udon noodles are made and boiled in such water, the surface of the udon noodle is boiled and melted, but the centre is not boiled for any length of time, and the noodle becomes thin like a wire, but is not boiled.

In Japan, there are many regions in Kyushu and Okinawa where the water is bad.

Recently, many gourmet food programmes have been broadcast on television, and it is said that soft water is a common denominator in restaurants with good cuisine.
Soft water also makes it very easy to extract broth as well as noodles, so Japanese broth or ramen soup can be extracted very well.

Iron rule 4 for making good udon noodles: salt

Salt is inseparable from making udon. Thinking that salt might have an influence on making good udon, I bought most of the commercially available salts (about 40 kinds), which are called natural salts, and tried making udon, but I could not see any difference between them and JT’s salt. At that point, I concluded that the quality of udon did not change with different salts, as was the conventional theory. One day, however, I tried making udon noodles with seawater from Naruto. When I did, the texture changed completely, and the most ideal udon, soft but sticky, was produced. We were so surprised that we analysed the composition of the seawater and the natural salt we had tested. It turned out that the composition of salt generally sold as natural salt was completely different from seawater, and that the composition of these natural salts was rather similar to that of JT salt. For example, seawater contains about 4% magnesium, while natural salt contains only 0.4% or 0.04%, which is one or two orders of magnitude less. So we made salt with the same composition as seawater and tried to make udon noodles. The texture was just as good as seawater. The firmness disappeared, it became soft and very sticky, and the taste was very mild, without any salty curd. Measurements on a measuring instrument showed that all values such as viscoelasticity, tensile strength, cutting strength, boiling extension and boiling time were improved by about 30% compared to natural salt and JT salt. The results of this research were later recognised by Kagawa Prefecture as a research that overturned the conventional wisdom of udon making, and the creation method was approved. Furthermore, this salt was used to see in which salt water shellfish such as clams would live the longest. We tested salt water made from seawater from the Seto Inland Sea, salt water made from JT and various natural salts, and salt water made from our salt. The salt water made from seawater and our salt lasted the longest, exactly one week. The other salts lasted a short two days and a long four days. Salt is said to be an important nutritional element for the human body, providing it with invaluable minerals. Since life originated in ancient seawater, it is likely that our human body fluids have almost the same composition as seawater. Therefore, I named this salt ‘4.6 billion years’ and started selling it, believing that it would be useful to customers running udon and soba restaurants across the country.

There are now 2,526 enthusiastic users across the country.

Some of the customer testimonials include.
‘The noodles are shinier and boil faster.’
‘Produces noodles that look like they’re made with a higher grade of flour’
‘The noodles feel gentler in the hand.
‘The softness of the noodles has increased, and there is less variation in the noodles, regardless of the conditions.’
‘Quicker to boil and quicker to mature.’
‘The noodles are now ideal for chilled noodle soup.
‘The noodles are now stickier and more elastic, and have a more transparent appearance after boiling.’
‘Boiling has become slower.
We have received countless words of thanks from our customers.

Our “4.6 billion years” contains the same amount of minerals as seawater, so if it is left in the air, it quickly returns to its original seawater state.
In addition to having the same composition as seawater, we also use a machine called a Brabender machine to measure the viscoelasticity (stickiness) of the flour, and fine-tune the formula to maximise the stickiness of the noodles.

In short, the udon noodles are made so that they have the strongest consistency.

In Kagawa Prefecture, the home of Sanuki udon, there is an old saying about how to make udon: “Do san kanroku, joko fuku”.
This is a term used to indicate the ratio of salt to water when making udon: in summer it is hot, so there is three cups of water to one cup of salt; in winter it is cold, so there is six cups of water to one cup of salt; and in spring and autumn it is five cups of water to one cup of salt.

However, if udon noodles were made with JT salt at this ratio, they would be too salty to eat at all, so the current theory is that the old people were probably wrong because their Hakari was inadequate.
However, we have found that if you make udon noodles with our “4.6 billion years“, you can make very tasty udon noodles with almost exactly the same proportions. This proves the consistency of the old salt and the old production method.

Recently, there is a lot of talk about the harmful effects of too much salt and the need to reduce salt consumption, but I believe that taking salt with unbalanced ingredients like JT’s, which is like an additive, is probably the cause of many illnesses.

The natural salt sold in general seems to be consumer-friendly and contains only enough minerals to prevent dampness when used as table salt.
Through my research on salt, I have read most of the literature on salt available on the market, so I have learned a lot.
I also learnt how little consumers really know about salt, and I felt that it is an important mission of ours to inform consumers about the truth.

Iron rule 5 for producing tasty udon noodles: kneading

To make udon noodles, the flour and salt water are first kneaded together.
The amount of salt water and salt concentration in relation to the flour depends on the room temperature, humidity and water content in the flour on that particular day and time, so the amount of salt water and salt concentration are carefully fine-tuned while checking the kneading conditions. The more salt water that is added here, the better the noodles will taste, so water is added to the very limit.

It has long been said that the hardness of udon dough is the hardness of an earlobe.
However, recent handmade udon shops that make their own noodles tend to make udon dough as hard as the sole of your foot, rather than the hardness of an earlobe.
And they mix for longer than 15 minutes.

In our case, mixing is done for only five minutes.
Five minutes is the amount of time it takes a professional, authentic hand-kneader in Kagawa Prefecture to knead udon noodles.
Why use a machine to knead for more than five minutes when it only takes five minutes to knead by hand?
Tests at the Kagawa Agricultural Experiment Station have shown that the tensile strength and elongation of the dough is maximised when kneaded with a mixer at 60 revolutions per minute for five minutes.
Furthermore, our experimental results show that the longer the kneading time, the longer the boiling time.

Generally, for the same noodle size, the shorter the boiling time, the better the noodles.
Shorter boiling times also mean shorter serving times and slower ageing.
In our case, we knead the flour in a short time so as not to put undue stress on it, as well as kneading it gently, so that the water is evenly distributed to all the flour particles.

Iron rule 6 for producing tasty udon noodles: the forging process

The forging process creates a solid, three-dimensional network of gluten in the noodle dough.

The gluten meshwork corresponds to the reinforcing steel bars in a reinforced concrete structure. The starch grains are the concrete.
A good structure is one in which the reinforcing bars are firmly assembled three-dimensionally, vertically, horizontally and diagonally, and the concrete is tightly packed between them without gaps.
When this kind of udon dough is produced, the resulting udon is not only hard, but also soft, sticky and firm enough to bite through with the front teeth.

However, if mixing is carried out for a long time, if ripening time after mixing is not long enough, if forging is carried out forcibly in the forging process, or if rolling is carried out forcibly with great force in the rolling process, the gluten structure is destroyed and the udon becomes only hard.
Even professionals often make the mistake of not maturing the udon after mixing, or mistakenly believing that the more they train the udon, the firmer it will be.

It is easy to produce udon noodles that are only hard.
It is easy to destroy the gluten tissue. It also extremely increases the boiling time and speeds up the ageing process.
Even in the home of Sanuki udon, people often confuse hardness and firmness, but the truly delicious udon we aim for is not hard, but soft and sticky.

Iron rule 7 for producing tasty udon noodles: rolling the rolling pin and cutting with a knife

Sanuki udon production is characterised by the use of a rolling pin.
The dough is wrapped around a thin rolling pin and slowly rolled out in alternating lengthwise and crosswise directions without applying excessive force to the dough.
Our company also follows the old method of slowly rolling the dough in the vertical, horizontal and horizontal directions.
We never roll thinly all at once.
It is important to roll the dough not only from one direction, but also gradually from the vertical, horizontal and diagonal directions.

The most common mistake most handmade professionals make is in the final cutting process.
If the final cut is wrong, no matter how good the noodle dough is, it will not be the best tasting udon.

The most important thing here is the ratio between the thickness of the noodle line and the width of the cut.
The mistake made by hand-rolling professionals is rolling the thickness thicker and cutting the width thinner.
When the finished raw noodles are boiled, the cross-sectional shape of the noodle line expands outwards on the two sides where the knife blade enters, as the hot water passes easily through the boiling pot.
The two sides that have been rolled are concave because it is difficult for the hot water to pass through them.
The two sides then swell up and the two sides become concave.

The swollen surface also has the problem that the surface is smooth and it is difficult to get the broth on it.
Conversely, if the noodles are rolled thin, cut into wide strips and boiled, all four sides are concave, producing good udon noodles with sharp edges.

If this happens, it will be easier to get the broth on board. I often ask the owners of existing udon shops. How wide and thick are your udon slices?” In most cases, the answer is something like this: “It’s the size of disposable chopsticks. ‘It’s the size of the disposable chopsticks.’ The thickness of the base and the tip of the disposable chopsticks are completely different. Then, ask: ‘Is it the tip of the disposable chopstick or the base? Or the base?” Most customers reply: ‘The middle one. Most customers reply, “It’s in the middle. First of all, they are indifferent to the size of the noodle and do not pay much attention to it. In short, they do not understand that the size of the noodle is an important factor in determining the final taste. Boiling time is not determined by the width of the cut, but by the thickness. The cross-sectional size we recommend to our customers as the ultimate udon is 4.0 mm in width and 2.5 mm in thickness. The ratio is 1.6 to 1. When noodles are boiled, they do not expand in the same ratio of width to thickness, but the thickness always expands more than the width. Even if cut in the above sizes, they will approach a square when boiled.
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