U-don think it’s easy to make Udon?

My latest cookery course endeavour was a fresh noodle making class with Reiko Hashimoto, possibly the first of its kind in London, for I’ve yet to come across anything remotely similar.  I’ve been to Reiko’s Gourmet course and left with nothing but praise for the standard of expertise in Japanese cuisine that Reiko offers, relaxed and informal surroundings and above all, damn tasty food that you CAN recreate at home (whilst wowing your friends as they marvel at your culinary skills!).

My assumption has always been that it’s pretty tough to make noodles and I was so surprised to see how so few ingredients and a little hard graft result in fresh noodles ready for the pot in less than 20 minuntes (or a little longer for feebles like me with wimpy arms).

We made Udon noodles – equal quantities of strong white flour and plain flour, and Reiko explained how to make Soba noodles – a combination of buckwheat flour and plain flour.  Nothing else needed, just a little cold water to bring the mixture together.  The soba noodles were made before the class began to allow for resting.

This is a very hands-on class, and no doubt the messiest one for Reiko’s kitchen, although aprons were thoughtfully provided for all of us. Everyone has their own Udon mix to knead and after about 15 minutes of taking out the days aggressions on the dough, it is miraculously transformed into a springy ball ready for rolling and cutting.

The noodles are hand cut, which all adds to the ‘feel-good’ factor when making something very tactile like this, and you get a much better idea of how thin the dough should be rolled and cut than if it were to be pressed through a machine.

We also rolled and cut the Soba, which were more tricky to work with as the dough was drier and less elastic, and the strands should be cut much thinner than for Udon.

Some of the noodles came out fat, some thin…and some with a rogue hair in them (whoops!).  For me, this was all part of the enjoyment and I’m sure we all left learning from our mishaps.

At the beginning of the class, Reiko started by preparing a traditional Dashi stock with Kombu and Bonito flakes and we revisit the pot at several stages throughout the class. Of course when you’re in a rush it’s ok to use instant dashi stock, but you really can taste the difference if the stock is made from scratch.

We went through a variety of accompaniments for the noodles – Soy & Honey Glazed Smoked Mackeral or Saba and Deep Fried Tofu or Kitsune for the udon, and a sweet soy based Zaru dressing for the Soba noodles which are traditionally eaten cold with a little wasabi and chopped spring onion. We also had some sliced Japanese fish cake to serve with the udon. Needless to say, this then led to the inevitable slurping of the noodles, with a refreshing glass of wine or beer.  I dare say we deserved it for all that kneading!

The Udon and amazing dashi stock were especially good – when freshly made they have a certain spring to them that you don’t get with dried or frozen udon. This is something I will definitely try at home, I really was amazed at how simple they were to make, with no specialist equipment or ingredients needed.

All in the evening costs £65 and it’s one of a kind. Reiko’s classes always attract a nice mix of attendees from all kinds of backgrounds, and the ice is broken quickly with such a hands on class where everyone rolls up their sleeves and mucks in. Another triumph from Reiko which I wholeheartedly recommend!

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