Udon Deal.

· March 20, 2021

The story of my handmade noodles and a journey towards disgust.

My handmade noodles.

I write this with sore wrists, flour sullied clothes and an almost-disgust for udon noodles. Yesterday, I had a sudden craving for Udon noodles, a kind of Japanese Noodle made of whole wheat. The noodle has a bite to it, it’s springy, chewy and beautiful. I had to have it. This flash of motivation to make my own Udon came to me at about 9:30 PM on a Saturday night - kind of late for cooking, but I figured it would be good to capitalise on my motivation before I run out of it. I had the 3 basic ingredients that went into it - salt, flour and water 1, so I thought I could quickly knead me some dough and let it rest for the night, allowing the gluten form overnight. This in itself turned out to be a huge pain - I didn’t know dough (about 30 odd per cent hydration) can get this hard. My knuckles got red, and my wrists sore, but I kneaded till I had my shaggy dough. Mind you, this was dough worth at least 6 portions 2

I woke up today morning, to see how my dough had fared overnight. It had become a brick, which resulted in me starting my day by increasing the hydration in my Udon dough.

Kneading is very important to Udon preparation. Kneading allows the formation of gluten, the structure that lends the noodle its springy, chewy texture. The Japanese traditionally use their feet to do the kneading. My wrists thanked me for this discovery and proceeded to stomp away on my dough (much to my mother’s horror.)

Feet kneading

I bagged my dough and stomped away. I did this in small batches.

After the intense kneading session, I let the dough rest again for a bit and proceeded to start rolling out the noodle. Here is where I started hating myself.

Let me tell you something I discovered about cooking. Cooking is the most human thing you can. My grandfather always says that the meaning of life lies in cooking - humans would have been nowhere if not for the urge of having good food 3. I love cooking 4. I have been cooking all sorts of thing as a hobby for years. It has been a source of great joy and learning. But nothing is as much a pain as cooking in large quantities.

The satisfaction (or feeling of being rewarded) by cooking depends on two opposing functions - The Joy function, and The Effort function. This can be modelled to look something like this, assuming you are cooking for $n$ people

[\text{Joy}(n) \propto n] [\text{Effort}(n) \propto \frac{1}{k-n}]

To maximise satisfaction, you would have to maximise the joy per effort expended. This would look something like this:

[\text{Peak Satisfaction} = \text{maxima}({\frac{\text{Joy(n)}}{\text{Effort(n)}}})]


Assuming appropriate constants, I have modelled my satisfaction function5 as $\text{Satisfaction}(n) = n(5-n)$

Plotting it makes it clear, I am quite a bit past the peak satisfaction (which occurs at $n=2.5$, which translates to me as main course + starters for two.)

Here are a couple of illustrative examples of what output from peak satisfaction cooking looks like, as opposed to output from suboptimal satisfaction cooking (albeit net fun cooking)


Optimal Satisfaction Udon

Suboptimal Satisfaction Udon

Suboptimal Satisfaction Udon

I also have this habit of eating while cooking. I have eaten enough Udon (raw+cooked), to be sick of Udon for the rest of the day.

All said Udon 6, the joy still outweighed the effort to make a kilo of handmade Udon for my whole family (I made enough to have leftovers for dinner tonight). I am just glad I don’t live in a family that is $n\geq5$


NOTE: This first appeared in Letter 7, but I have spun it off into its own post because I liked it.

  1. I also added my secret ingredient, MSG. Spoiler, I don’t think I added enough to make a difference. It was a little too subtle. Next time, I would add way more. It definitely had a positive impact. 

  2. When I used to stay with my flatmates back in college, I used to cook only for myself. Sometimes for a couple of people. I never cooked huge quantities. After moving back home post-college, I realised I had to scale up a lot since I couldn’t just cook for myself anymore. In my house, it’s okay if there is more food, but there mustn’t be too less. 

  3. A bit extreme I know, but he definitely lives by those words. 

  4. Something my grandfather is very proud of and belives I inherited from him. Highly likely to be honest. 

  5. I have been reading about chaos theory. Of course I would use this equation to model satisfaction. 

  6. Pronounced all said and done. Similarly, the title reads “A done deal” 

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