In Fukuoka, Japan, in the historic town of Hakata, is the Jotenji Temple, the birthplace of udon, soba, yokan and manju.
In 1235, Chinese merchant Xie Guo Ming invited the Buddhist reverend priest Shoichi Kokushi, also named Enni-Ben’en, to China where he mastered Zen Buddhism. Upon returning to Fukuoka in 1241, he introduced a new ingredient, flour.
There is a stone memorial at the Jotenji Temple that says “Udon Soba Hassho no Chi,” or “The place where udon and soba were first made.”
Shoichi Kokushi befriended a tea stand owner and taught him how to make steamed “amazuke manju,” or “manju,” made with sweet sake. He also made “yokan,” or sweets made with bean paste. This sweet became a staple at tea ceremonies, even today.
I have great memories of my father making udon, as he would tell us about his memories of his mother making fresh udon. He would make it and my mother would make the broth for the noodles. The crunch of fresh noodles is unbeatable and is so basic that we all should make our own udon!
Makes 1 1/2 pounds noodles
In a food processor, place:
1 pound (3 cups plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
Pulse to combine. Turn motor on and using the feed tube, slowly pour:
1 cup water
The dough will look crumbly. Let the machine run for a little more to moisten all the flour.
Don’t worry if it does not come together into a ball. Transfer all the dough and bits to your work surface that has been lightly dusted. Knead vigorously for 5 minutes, slapping the dough onto the work surface occasionally to work the gluten. The dough will become smooth and feel firm-soft.
Shape the dough into a ball and slide into a zip-top bag. Seal well, pressing out all the air. Set aside to rest for 4 hours.
Set a pot for boiling the noodles as you roll.
Roll into a large circle, then fold in half, dust the underside, then fold back 1/4 of the dough on each side to create flaps.
Use a knife to cut strips of noodles, about1/4 inch wide. Gently dust the noodles with flour to prevent from sticking together.
Drop the noodles into the boiling water. Let them cook for about 3 minutes until they float to the top and are chewy tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove noodles. Place them into a bowl of cold water to cool for a few minutes. Drain into a strainer and set aside to cool. Replace water in the bowl to cool the next batch of noodles.
In Japan, cold noodles are served in the summer and hot in the winter. With the hot weather in Hilo, we can make a broth for cold noodles.
Cold Udon Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 cups
In a saucepan, boil together:
1 cup water
1 packet dashi-no-moto
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons mirin
Allow to cool to room temperature
Garnish with at least two of the following:
Two green onions, sliced
Sliced kamaboko (steamed fish cake)
1/2 cup grated daikon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
(I like green onions, shredded nori or furikake and kamaboko)
For cold udon, place cooled and drained udon on a bamboo tray, or “zaru,” and divide the sauce into four small bowls on side to dip. The sauce is quite strong in flavor and is intended to be used for dipping only, and not for slurping.
It seems we eat yokan only on New Year’s Day because that is when KTA has it on display. In Japan, at the department stores with a floor of food items, usually on the bottom floor, there is always a section of the most beautiful yokan. So beautiful you don’t want to cut into it. I have purchased it with designs in the center or multicolored. Oftentimes it is just “eye-candy” because it’s usually very expensive.
In a bowl of cold water, place for 1 hour:
1 stick clear kanten (agar-agar)
Squeeze out all water, tear into small pieces.
In a saucepan, add:
1 1/4 cups water
Heat until kanten is dissolved. Add:
1 cup packed brown sugar
Stir to dissolve sugar, add:
1 1/2 cups koshi-an
Mix together well. Place in a loaf pan, refrigerate until set, cut into 1/2 inch slices.
Mark your calendar for this weekend’s Mealani Taste of the Hawaiian Range on Friday, Oct. 4, at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and then the Taste of Hilo at Sangha Hall on Sunday, Oct. 20.
Call the Japanese Chamber of Commerce office for tickets and information.
Apologies to the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Last week I incorrectly referred to it as Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Call the Hawaii Community College cafeteria at 934-2559 from Tuesday through Friday for the specials of the day. First-year students are waiting for you to check out their skills!
Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.