Furaidochikin Crossing: Udon in Takamatsu

I got to make udon noodles in Takamatsu in a workshop hosted by the gentle man who runs the Samurai Apartment in which I stayed! It was really cool! I’ll post a little about the lodging too because I really enjoyed my stay there. If any of you ever plan to go to the art islands in Japan, I recommend Samurai Apartment!

After my gross experience in Osaka, Takamatsu was a welcome sight. It’s a baby metroplex with a population a little larger than Lubbock, Texas and has a one hour ferry ride to Naoshima Island and the other nearby art islands. It has all the key things I look for in a city in Japan: a cat cafe, sweets, melon pan, daifuku, sweets, an eyeglasses chain, ramen, sweet Japanese people, good coffee/tea, used clothing stores, a dance studio specializing in urban styles, and sweets. Kagawa precfecture is known for it’s udon noodles, and Jiro, the male half of the couple heading up the apartment, quickly recommended a famous Udon shop, Udon Baka Ichidai, for me to visit for lunch. It was very popular and there was a line out the door and down the street.

It was alllll Japanese. Even with my translator I couldn’t see what the dishes were because it won’t read handwritten script. Once I got to the front of the line I felt immense pressure to order so I saw a word I recognized and ordered the curry. Would not have been my first choice. I feel like I missed out on what the specialty of the house was. It was still good though!

Curry at Udon Baka Ichidai.

I want to mention what a great experience it was staying at Saumrai Apartment. Jiro and his wife Mika were not only adorable but super nice and helpful. Jiro and I have iphones so we connected over imessage. He kept sending me cool suggestions and ideas and I kept telling him how sugoi everything is. “Sugoi” is the general Japanese word for Awesome! Cool! Great! Amazing! Killer! Neat! Sweet! I hear (and say) this word multiple times every day. In one message he told me that he does an udon making workshop and wanted to know if I was interested. I thought that I was doing the art island thing for 3 days but that was a bust too. (Another post on that soon.) Since I ended up having the afternoon free I decided on the udon experience. I haven’t been disappointed yet when it comes to getting involved in a small class or one on one lesson here so heck yeah, I’m in!

I am in “Udon County” where the mascot is a noodle wearing a suit with… noodles hanging off of the sleeves?

I got back from running an errand with enough time to grab a coffee to stay alert for the lesson. While I was sitting down in a sweets cafe I saw these obviously foreign guys wander in wearing the same shirts. “Hunh! There’s some foreign guys!” I thought, while the sugar took over. I finished my coffee and sweet and made my way back to Jiro and Mika. They were waiting in their car and drove me to the Udon place! SO nice.

This little cat turns up at all of the train station souvenir places. This one is localized by having her depicted eating noodles and wearing a tempura shrimp fascinator in her “hair.”

Jiro introduced us to the chef who greeted us at his udon noodle restaurant. They had just closed the shop but it was open for us to do our thing. Here’s the restaurant! (I think the chef’s name there was Junichi but I’m not sure and I’m awaiting confirmation. I’m a horrible person.) We waited a little bit for the other people who had signed up for the workshop and in walked the foreign guys from the sweets cafe! “HAY! I saw you guys earlier!” I said. Turns out they are brothers from Israel! We became quick friends because they were so damn funny. Let’s get into the udon noodle making process!

Don’t worry. The dough is between two pieces of plastic. Photo credit Roi Ariel.

Looks like we all forgot to take pictures of the big ball of dough that we kneaded with our bare hands. This is the first process that I have a photo of which is the continuation of the kneading… except it’s done with heels and toes. We did this about or 6 times, pulling it out and folding it back up into a ball in between each stomping.

Machine roller.

This machine helps to flatten it out further. It winds up looking a lot like pizza dough.

The dough is rolling through the top and the noodles that are cut are dropping into the tray below.

This machine does the cutting. I believe it’s possible to get the noodles to this stage in 15 minutes with the help of the machines. Otherwise I think they said it would be more like 2 hours.

Roi, Eyal, and I. Proud noodle parents.

Next came the soaking and cooking.

Stirring noodles at the bottom.

The time to cook was short, 9 minutes.

Fishing out noodles in serving size bunches.
Washing them. They felt slimy.

They felt a little gross but knowing full well what they are my brain quickly got over it. I’ve eaten plenty of udon noodles in my day. I like udon but I don’t seek it out in quite the way I seek out ramen. Mmmmm.

Our bounty.

I enjoyed chatting with the brothers over two different udon dishes that the restaurant served up for us with the noodles we made. The food was great and Roi and Eyal were so funny! They had me laughing the entire time, especially when one of them (I’m not naming names!) was trying to ask if one of the dishes had intestines in it and mimed eating, processing the food, and pooping to get his point across. For a person who really doesn’t trust strangers, I quickly exchanged information with these guys to keep in touch! Thanks, Arial Bros, for making that experience so much fun. And thanks Jiro, Mika, and Junichi for making the experience memorable!

Love, Furaidochikin.

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