I have been a fan of Japanese thick noodles for a long time but never considered making them myself until my friend Rachel - culinary expert and baker - suggested it to Xa and I .
Rachel made the dough and brought it over. In an attempt to mimic some traditional manner in which this dough is needed to be kneaded at a certain stage, Xa proceeded to stomp on the dough (wrapped in paper) with her feet - here pictured. We then cut the dough up into noodles - also shown here, but representing someone else's noodle cutting efforts & skills. I can assure you our noodles were even more beautiful.
Last time I was in Japan they were going through a bit of an Udon craze. "Sanuki Udon" from the island of Shikoku had just become the new Hot Thing. I like this guide to eating udon noodles posted by a Tetsutaro Okada - Economics Professor in Kagawa. He writes:
"Good udon" means cheap and delicious one. How do we look for good udon noodle restaurants? It's easy. All you have to do is to walk (or ride a bicycle if possible) around near your place in Kagawa at 12:00 on week days. You will see the local people queuing in front of a good noodle restaurant. They are queuing from 12:00 until 12:30 or 12:45.
This sounds like very reasonable advice. At the same time, people are always lined up outside of Garrett's Popcorn in downtown Chicago, and I would never recommend that to anybody - lemming running off the popcorn cliff if you ask me. Go to their website linked right above and you can watch a video clip of Halle Barry actually *hugging* a huge tin of this popcorn. I guess it is a matter of whose taste you trusts more - me or Halle?
The Udon was delicious and the tempura that Xa and I made was too. The tempura eggs (no, not egg tempera) that Rachel introduced us to were mindblowingly tasty, and worth all the cholesterol medication we'll have to take 10 years from now because of it.
p.s. Professor Okada also has a nice step-by-step about making sanuki udon in the US! In Japanese only, it is still fun to see the photos of him making the dough.