When I visited one of my Japanese friends, she treated me to her special ‘feet-made’ Udon noodles. All of the kneading was done by my friend with her feet while she was making me tea and by her two young children who also came to help. It was very well wrapped and super clean, just in case you were worrying about hygiene!
The history behind feet-made Udon in Japan comes from the country’s Sanuki area (now the Kagawa prefecture, part of Shikoku) which is famous for its Udon noodles. Kneading the dough was one of the hardest but most important parts of the process for Udon factory workers who began to develop ways of making the process easier by using their feet – a method which has been further developed over centuries.
Fairland Collective – of which I am a member – once introduced the method of feet-made Udon during a series of workshops that were part of a residency in Cornwall. The local community were invited to knead their own Udon with their feet accompanied by a song called ‘The marching for 365 steps’ which was a big hit song in 1968 in Japan.
How to make your own feet-made Udon:
Ingredients (serves 4-5 people)
Plain flour 200g | Strong flour 200g (mix together to make 400g medium strong flour or alternatively use 400g plain flour) | Water 200ml | Salt (preferably sea salt) 2tsp | A large strong plastic bag (or a few smaller ones to divide for kneading)
- Mix the water and salt in advance.
- Put the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the salted water into the well and mix until it forms a dough.
- Put the dough in the bag(s) and express any excess air. Put on the floor and step on it several times until the dough becomes flat (you can also do it with your hands if preferred).
- Open the bag and fold the dough twice and repeat the stepping process. Repeat this about 10 times.
- Leave the dough for 30 minutes. If you have time you can even leave it overnight (this will create a more chewy textured noodle, which is also tasty).
- Stretch the dough out and roll flat until it is 2-3mm. Fold it and dust with flour. Cut into strips around 5mm in width and mix with flour to avoid it being sticky (see image below).
- To cook, place the Udon in boiling water for about 5-7 minutes (may be longer depending on how thick you cut it so test before removing). After boiling, rinse with cold water immediately – this makes the noodles nice and chewy.
- Drain well and set aside. Serve it hot or cold with soup.