Making sure udon gets chewed on

03 July, 2019

The Japanese udon noodle market is Australia’s most stable premium wheat market. AEGIC’s regular Australian Wheat Technical Seminars are a fundamental part of helping maintain this lucrative market.

Japanese noodle lovers know what they like when they’re tucking into a delicious bowl of udon. The perfect udon noodles should have a mouthfeel known as ‘mochi mochi’ – a unique balance of softness and chewy firmness, combined with good elasticity and a slight stickness. Udon noodles have a bright and creamy white colour which is stable, so that noodles made today will look the same tomorrow.

How do Japanese noodle makers achieve this? Put simply, it’s all in the wheat. One does not simply use any old wheat for udon noodles.

Japan buys all of its wheat for udon noodles from Western Australia, because they know our wheat ticks all the boxes. A similar market exists in Korea.

Making sure we keep ticking those boxes consistently year after year is no simple matter. A lot goes on behind the scenes to make sure Australia is meeting the needs of our noodle-loving friends. Working together, AEGIC, the Grain Industry Association of WA, Wheat Quality Australia and CBH coordinate the relationship with Japan.

Australian plant breeding companies are working hard to coming up with improved udon noodle varieties – a highly-technical, very involved process which can take up to a decade for each new variety. Their breeding efforts are shaped by AEGIC’s market insight and sensory evaluation

AEGIC runs a highly-trained noodle sensory evaluation program, in collaboration with the Japanese Flour Millers Association (JFMA). The evaluation involves blind sensory testing (taste, appearance, mouthfeel) of unreleased wheat varieties to help with classification and ensure our wheat meets Japanese requirements.

AEGIC’s regular technical seminars in Japan and Korea update flour millers on the latest research and development for udon noodles and other products.

In May we travelled to Tokyo with InterGrain’s CEO Tress Walmsley and National Wheat Breeder Dan Mullan for AEGIC’s annual Australian Wheat Technical Seminar. 75 people attended this year, from all of the major flour milling companies in Japan.

The millers received an update from AEGIC’s Dr Larisa Cato on Australian wheat quality and functionality for noodles, and were especially interested to hear from Tress Walmsley who provided an update on current and new wheat varieties, and the future of new breeding technologies such as gene editing.

This year, an udon noodle sensory session was held with the official Japanese Flour Millers Association sensory panel. Udon noodles were prepared and evaluated to better understand how JFMA members view and describe major quality traits. This information will help Wheat Quality Australia when it comes to classifying new noodle wheat varieties.

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