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Published: August 7th 2008
7:30 am and the alarm clock is going off. Why is the alarm going off? Oh yeah, I have to catch an early train to Takase for an udon making class. Geez, I shouldn’t have gone out drinking last night. Toss on some clothes. Search for my keys and out the door.
Never been to Takase before and I didn’t expect the train ride to be so much fun. The fields were all being plowed for or planted with rice turning the countryside into a giant patchwork of large puddles of water with bright green sprouts. Rice season in Japan isn’t popular with some people because of the mosquitoes and the frogs, but I really love the way the countryside is transformed.
At Takase station I realized I made the embarrassing mistake of buying the wrong ticket so I had to apologize to the station guard and fork out some more yen. My student met me in the station and drove me the full three blocks to the community college. In those three blocks I think I saw the entire village, definitely a one horse town.
The college in Takase is not large or new, but it’s a
clean building. The cooking classes are held on the second floor and I arrived to find my teachers already bustling around to prepare for us. After a quick introduction I realized that none of them spoke and English. The master udon chef had a great sense of humor and found the situation very entertaining. The teachers were nervous about it though; they are really just students and are graded on their ability to teach us correctly. When my co-workers (fellow students for the day) arrived we began the class.
Making udon is fun. Udon basically consists of flour and salt water. You pour the flour into a bowl and sift it by hand. Then you add the mixture of salt water and “fluff” the mixture for a lengthy amount of time into small chunks of dough. Then you roll it into a big ball and put it in a plastic bag. Here comes the fun part, you put the bag on the floor and stomp on it in a circular motion. After dancing on it for awhile you pick it up, take it out the bag and knead it. Back into the bag the dough goes and more squishing
it with your feet. After doing this three times you take the dough out and let it sit for at least two hours. We were lucky and our kind instructors had made a batch of the day before. Just like in the cooking shows we put the dough we just walked all over aside and were handed a bag of ready made dough. Next step involved rolling our udon into a square. Sounds easy, right? It wasn’t, that dough was really tough. Udon chefs must have fabulously defined forearms. After we followed the very specific steps for rolling out udon we got to cut it up. The Japanese invented a contraption just for cutting up udon. It is a kind of semi automatic guillotine. Of course all the Japanese women and one other foreigner volunteered me to be the guinea pig with the fun new toy. It was actually a little tricky and a little scary since you have to hold the dough to keep it from shifting. Focus was needed to keep from losing a finger or two. Luckily no one lost any appendages and the chef boiled up the udon after it was sliced and we ate. It
Not cooking, exercise
Stephanie and I working hard!
was completely delicious. ^_^
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