Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle rolled by hand or made with the Yamato machine and cut with precision. When it comes to Udon, everyone has their own preferences. Some like it rich in broth, light on toppings, or both depending on the Udon dish they’re trying at that moment. Regardless of how you take your Udon, you may be wondering how authentic it really is. The difference can make or break a meal just from the quality and preparation alone. So what’s better: handmade Udon noodles vs. Yamato Udon (machine-made)?
Which Is Better: Noodles Made with the Yamato Udon Machine or Handmade Udon Noodles?
With the various ways Udon is made in the noodle shops around the country, how do we know what authentic Udon is? Do we define it purely by the fact that it is handmade? Machine made? Or is there simply a distinction between the two and it is up to the individual to decide which is better?
To help provide a little insight into both, here is a list of the pros and cons associated with handmade Udon, Yamato Machine-made Udon, and the differences between the two that ultimately make one more authentic over the other.
Handmade Udon Noodles
For hundreds of years, the best Udon noodles were often the ones found at the local noodle bar, where the quality and consistency of Udon only went so far as the (hopefully) experienced hands of the chef making them. Utilizing a cooking process based on flour, salt, and water, handmade Udon noodles are typically made by mixing these ingredients together then kneading the dough by hand.
The Udon dough is then carefully rolled out, folded into a smaller size, and eventually cut into strands of Udon noodles that are then cooked in boiling water. The preparation process can be a timely one: it could take anywhere from a few minutes to cut and immediately cook Udon to several hours or more to allow the Udon dough to rest before it is kneaded and flattened once again prior to cutting and cooking.
It is a cooking process that can be slightly adjusted and differs from one chef to the next depending on how skilled the Udon chef is who is making them.
- Ability to recreate the process at home, not just in a restaurant
- More unique and distinct flavors to the Udon served due to easy personalization that is unlikely to be matched by other noodle bars
- More variety of Udon noodle shapes and sizes as not all Udon noodles are cut alike
- Potential health concerns that come with the overall cleanliness of Udon noodle preparation and cooking process
- Variances in temperature throughout the Udon dish from inconsistent noodle thicknesses
- Slow preparation and cooking process as the amount of time it takes to make handmade Udon noodles could easily hinder noodle bar operations
Noodles Made with the Yamato Udon Machine
While handmade Udon noodles can be seen as more authentic in the sense of how Udon originated, this isn’t the full story. Handmade Udon is always limited to the hands of different chefs in different noodle bars, which can then dilute the authentic taste (being different from one chef or noodle bar to the next). That is where the Yamato Udon machine comes in to develop high-quality, authentic Udon that is uniformly prepared, cut, and delivered on a consistent basis.
This machine is actually currently being used in the Sanuki region of the Kagawa Prefecture as Kagawa is the headquarters of the Yamato Noodle Company, making them geographically authentic. Designed by a former engineer who combined his insight into the ancient Udon noodle cooking process with modern mechanical ingenuity, the resultant product of his work is an Udon noodle machine that has gone through more than 1,300 improvements to establish a new standard in delivering authentic Udon in a timely fashion.
- Noodles that are consistent in quality, size, and shape, regardless of the level of experience of the Udon noodle chef who is operating it
- A cleaner, more hygiene-friendly way to prepare and cook authentic Udon
- Provides Udon noodle bars with a more expedient and productive way to deliver authentic Udon at a much faster rate than the handmade preparation and cooking process (300 servings per day)
- Currently used in the Sanuki region, so it can be considered authentic per modern standards
- The machine is set at a price that Udon noodle bars are more likely to afford, rather than a single individual or family
- Not ideal for private homes or floor surfaces that could otherwise get damaged by the weight of the machine
- The Yamato Udon machine is designed to be a very compact one, which could make it difficult to operate for people of larger builds
Which Is Better: Which Is More Authentic: Handmade Udon Noodles or the Yamato Machine?
Yamato Machine-made Udon noodles may very well be better than handmade Udon noodles simply because of the slow, inconsistent, and unreliable process as well as the lack of a uniform size and taste that the latter has. The quality of machine-made Udon noodles is always consistent, making it easier to replicate modern Sanuki Udon. Therefore, Udon lovers will enjoy a more authentic product that is uniformly made wherever the machine is used in Udon noodle bars overseas or in the states.
To that end, try checking out authentic Udon hot spots where the Yamato Machine is being used to deliver this level of consistently authentic quality such as at Café Sanuki in Las Vegas. Café Sanuki is the only Udon noodle restaurant on this side of the states that utilizes the Yamato Udon machine, making it a destination for authentic Sanuki-region Udon.