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Move Over Ramen, There's a New Noodle in Town says Master Udon Maker

Discovering Udon

Food Talk & Tasting Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 6:30 pm, at Japan Society

** Featuring Demonstration & Samples from Osamu Miyoshi **

New York, NY – Since 2004 master noodle maker Osamu Miyoshi has made an annual pilgrimage to New York City to preach the gospel of ramen's older, bolder yet surprisingly less revered sibling udon. Why hasn't the udon trend broke in the U.S. to the same degree as ramen? The biggest challenge is that while the quality of ramen in America has begun to reach the quality of ramen in Japan, udon in the States is greatly lacking. That's no surprise given that even NYC's sister city Tokyo had not caught up until the early 2000s to the gold standard of udon production in Kagawa Prefecture.

In the Japan Society talk and tasting Discovering Udon, Miyoshi describes udon origins, why Kagawa's product is such high quality, varieties and production methods, and udon's bright future in world cuisine. He then treats the audience to a rare onstage udon-making demonstration, followed by a tasting reception with samples of fresh handmade sanuki udon, a thinner, springier class of udon compared to what is typically found in the U.S., which can be served in dashi (Japanese broth) or simply plain, dusted with scallion, ginger or soy.

Comprised of three basic ingredients, udon is relatively simple to make. But like all simple recipes, mastery comes from the quality of ingredients and care in preparation. Through this event, Miyoshi hopes that everyone with access to good flour, fresh water and quality salt will walk away able to make authentic sanuki udon. Discovering Udon takes place Wednesday, May 21, 6:30 pm at Japan Society.

Chopsticks New York notes that udon dough "is kneaded for a long time to produce its firm texture. In the case of sanuki udon, the noodles are cooked for about 12 minutes, and are removed after boiling and shocked in cold water. This removes the slimy feel and lowers the udon’s temperature to give it its bite.”

Japan Udon Association describes sanuki udon as “the famous local specialty of Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, it is the most renowned even of the three great udon varieties [in addition to inaniwa and mizusawa], and the people of Kagawa have the highest per capita udon consumption anywhere in Japan. Large numbers of tourists from all over Japan come to eat the noodles, and they form a key part of the region's cuisine. They are characterized by firmness and a smooth, fluid texture that comes from stomping on the dough after it is kneaded."

Though legend has it that sankui udon was brought from China by famed monk Kukai in the ninth century, the New York Times wrote that little was widley known about sanuki udon until 2002 after the book Osorubeki Sanuki Udon (The Magic of Sanuki Udon) was published. By 2004 the fad took off for the "thick, springy noodle made from fine white flour… [with] noticeable chewiness, achieved by walking or dancing on the dough”.

Osamu Miyoshi was born in 1964 to the owners of Hinode noodle-making factory, which was founded in 1930 in Sakaide, Kagawa Prefecture. After graduating from the local high school and going away to college in Osaka, he began work at a large noodle-making company. Miyoshi was surprised to see the level of automation present in the noodle-making process; considering he spent his mornings and evening helping his family make udon by hand all the way through high school. However, it was clear to him that there was quite a gap between handmade and machine processed udon, and he dedicated himself to developing his noodle making technique. In 1994 he was the recipient of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister’s Award at the Kagawa Sanuki Udon Competition, which he has now won a total of six times. He has also won the Governor’s Prize among numerous others. From 2004 he has traveled to New York annually to do udon events, and even appeared in the opening scene of the movie UDON, which takes place in New York. Miyoshi has also served in the role of advisor for Kagawa’s food and agriculture and spent time volunteering as an udon lecturer. However, his main work is at Hinode noodle-making factory, where he serves as President.

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Discovering Udon takes place Wednesday, May 21, at 6:30 pm. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). Tickets are $16/$12 Japan Society members, seniors and students, and may be purchased in person at Japan Society, at www.japansociety.org, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258. For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

This event is co-organized with SANUKI Project. Lecture Programs at Japan Society are generously sponsored by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Japan Airlines is the exclusive Japanese Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. United Airlines is the exclusive U.S. Airlines sponsor of Lecture Programs at Japan Society. Additional support is provided by Chris A. Wachenheim, and the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund.

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Media Contacts:
Shannon Jowett, 212-715-1205, sjowett@japansociety.org
Kuniko Shiobara, 212-715-1249, kshiobara@japansociety.org

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