My life in Japan has been filled with cultural and culinary discoveries. Among fond recollections from my first summer many years ago in Kanonji, a coastal township on the island of Shikoku, was a lesson in making udon noodles under the guidance of Kiyoko Andoh, the diminutive but energetic woman who, several years later, would become my mother-in-law.
Born Kiyoko Shinohara in 1907, my mother-in-law was the eldest daughter of a prominent landowner in Niihama, a coastal farming community on the Inland Sea. At the age of 20, she had an arranged marriage to Hisao Andoh, a businessman in nearby Kanonji. She bore him nine children - the second youngest, Atsunori, became my husband.
My mother-in-law died in 1998, but her skills live on every time I make udon - not by hand, but by foot. The dense, stiff dough, a combination of high-gluten wheat flour and salt water, requires tremendous strength to knead - especially in hot weather, when additional salt must be added. Stomping power isRead More »from Japanese noodles by the foot