So back during my banking days, my coworkers and I loved this place Onya. It was a hole in the wall udon shop on 47th street only a mere blocks from my then office. There were so many places devoted to the art of soba but nobody seemed to care about my beloved udon noodles until the arrival of Onya. When they first opened, you could watch the udon making process while you waited in line to place your order. It was glorious. It was exactly what I loved about New York: I could pretend like I was traveling to Japan during my lunch hour. Of course as with so many restaurants in this great city, lease renewal problems led to its doors permanently closing.
I bring to you Onya 2.0: my kitchen. Grocery store udon never had the firm chewiness of handmade noodles so I did some research and realized it was super easy to make these at home, especially if you have a stand mixer and pasta attachments. But don’t worry, you can also make them with just your hand, a plastic bag and a sharp knife.
The only three ingredients you need to make udon noodles are flour, salt, and water. You also need a lot of time to let the dough rest so I suggest attempting this on the weekend. I make a big batch and freeze them in single serving portions.
If you’re lazy like me and using a stand mixer, grab the dough hook. You want to mix the salt and flour first and then slowly pour in the water so that it gets evenly mixed in on a low setting (I use 2 on my kitchenaid). Alternatively you can do this part by hand and let the mixer knead the dough. Let the machine run for 5-7 minutes until the dough forms a cohesive ball and has the consistency of an ear lobe. If you’re opting for the manual route, mix the flour, salt, and water in a bowl by hand and once it forms a shaggy ball, knead on the counter until smooth. Compared to bread dough, udon dough is much tougher so people have traditionally used their feet to further knead the dough. To do this, place the dough in a large plastic storage bag, seal, and start stepping on the dough until it’s flat. Fold over the dough again and repeat until the consistency is that of an ear lobe.
Once the dough is properly kneaded and is smooth, wrap it well with plastic wrap and let it rest for 2-3 hours at room temperature. The longer you can wait, the better. This allows the gluten to relax and will make the next step easier.
After resting, unwrap the dough and portion out into 4 equal portions. Keep all but one wrapped so that they don’t dry out. Sprinkle some bench flour on your rolling surface (I use my butcher block for easy cleanup) and roll out to an eighth of an inch thickness.
Flour both sides of the dough really well and then roll up to cut the dough with a sharp knife to 1/4″ strips. Once all the noodles have been cut, toss with generous amounts of flour to keep from sticking to itself.
The rolling and cutting can easily be done with a pasta machine but I don’t think it actually saves on time. If the dough is properly rested, it’s not hard to roll out and the cutting by knife is definitely more soothing. If you do want to use your pasta machine, I would keep it thick (i.e. stop at setting 3 on the kitchenaid pasta attachment) and use the fettuccine cutter. And yes, my camera is covered in flour trying to get that last shot. I wasn’t smart enough to stop the mixer midway to give myself time to snap the photo.
Wrap single portions of the dough in plastic wrap and store in the freezer (150g if you’re neurotic like me and weight it out). Or better yet, make this. The boiling time will depend on the thickness of your noodles and can really vary so start checking around 3 minutes.
The soup base is really easy, just combine 1 cup dashi, 2 tsp usukuchi soy sauce, 5 tsp mirin, and a 3 finger pinch of salt and bring to a simmer in a small pot. If you’re not vehemently opposed to some MSG in your life, you could buy instant udon soup base. You can be creative with your garnish but I opted for some traditional options below (fried bean curd, fish cakes, scallions, Japanese poached egg, and togarashi). If you want a nice kick and brightness to the broth, I highly recommend yuzu kosho.
- 400g all purpose flour
- 200ml water
- 1 tbsp salt (12g)
- Mix the three ingredients in a bowl by hand until it forms a shaggy ball
- Either (1) continue to knead by hand and transfer the dough into a plastic bag to step/knead with your feet or (2) knead with the dough hook on a stand mixer for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and has the consistency of an ear lobe
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap several times and let it rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours
- Portion the dough out into 4 equal amounts and keep covered in plastic wrap
- One portion at a time, roll out the dough to ⅛" thickness
- Flour both sides of the dough very generously
- Roll the dough up and cut with a sharp knife into ¼" thickness
- Loosen the strands of noodles and reflour to prevent from sticking to itself
- Repeat rolling and cutting on all portions of dough
- Either freeze uncooked or boil the dough in salted water (time depends on thickness of noodles, start checking at minute 3 and adjust, can take up to 10 minutes)
- Rinse well in cold water