Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cooking & Food: Battle Of The Udon -- Stage 1


Battle of the four, who will win, and who will lose?
Image from Locky's English Playground
I often have to face the challenge of buying the best udon, simply because it is so hard to tell! First and foremost, I need to try out all the udon I can get if I am ever willing to buy more than one at a time, which is always the reason I never get to find the answer. Second, if you ask your friends, your friends may give you some suggestions, but the suggestions are always subjective. I want a proof more scientific, I need evidence to convince myself, I must have the answer to this lingering question! Thus...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I hereby present to you, a simple yet scientific "Battle Of The Udon"! A series of udon challenge in which only one of the 4 udon will win and get to move on to the next round to challenge another 3.
Aoiyume Kobo Udon (3rd from left) has only 200g
Image from Locky's English Playground

In Stage 1, our four contestants from left to right, all bought from AEON / JUSCO Supermarket, are:
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle, 270g, HK$13.9
  • ACE Sanuki Udon, 400g, HK$19.9
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon, 200g, HK$13.9
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki, 500g, HK$21.9

Round 1 of the battle is Price!

I doubt that many people will take out their calculator like I do to calculate the price of each item to compare their cost. However, if you simply judge by the total price of a product, you can be really wrong!

In order to make the numbers look better though, I will change the unit to Price-Per-100g. Don't worry, I will do that for you.
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- HK$5.15/100g
  • ACE Sanuki Udon                       -- HK$4.98/100g
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon                   -- HK$6.95/100g
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki     -- HK$4.38/100g
Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki -- Winner of Price-Per-100g
Image from Locky's English Playground
Congratulations to Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki for grabbing the first win in Round 1!


It is very good to know that Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki s really living up to its name "Top Value"! ACE Sanuki Udon comes in 2nd. Aoiyume Kobo Udon is the most expensive, charging me a crazy HK$7-ish for 100g!!! That is 58.7% more costly than Topvalu!

Calm down, calm down Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki , let's not get too excited just yet, we are just going to get serious!

2 long and 2 short, but exactly by how much?
Image from Locky's English Playground

Round 2 of the battle is the "dry length" of udon noodle.

As consumer, for value or for preference, we will often notice the difference between the length of udon easily, especially when you hold two of them on hands at the same time, but exactly how long they are?

Because the length of each noodle even in the same pack will be in different length, we don't have to be too serious about it. But for our competition, we will need use this "dry length" as a control, let's just compare them anyway.

To be fair, I picked one noodle that is about the same length as their neighbouring noodle in the same pack, and measured them in length.

Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- 20.4cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
ACE Sanuki Udon -- 24.4cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
Aoiyume Kobo Udon -- 20.2cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki -- 23.3cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
After measuring, the results are:
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- 20.4cm
  • ACE Sanuki Udon                       -- 24.4cm
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon                   -- 20.2cm
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki     -- 23.3cm
Although we cannot say that having the longest in "dry-length" mean much, a longer noodle in packet does give consumer a feeling of better value-for-money. Since the longest one beats the 2nd one by a whole centimetre, ACE Sanuki Udon deserves the award as the Round 2 winner!

Congratulations to ACE Sanuki Udon for winning Round 2!


Timer on my stove, 30 secs left
Image from Locky's English Playground
Round 3 of the battle is the cooking time of the udon noodle

This contributes to the amount of water absorption and thus affecting the elasticity, the bite, the taste of the udon and also ... the price you pay for gas.

However, this is not an easy test, because if I cooked the udon within a fixed time limit, it will mean that the udon might not be given enough time to absorb water, thus affecting their performance. After careful considerations, I decided to use the recommended time of cooking, taking the lower limit if a range is given, to allow each udon achieve optimal length, elasticity, bite and taste.

(Left to Right) Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- 8 mins, ACE Sanuki Udon -- 10 mins
Image from Locky's English Playground
That is, Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle will be given 8 mins while ACE Sanuki Udon will be given a lower limit of 10 mins, even if the recommended time is 10-12 mins.
(Left to Right) Aoiyume Kobo Udon -- 8mins, Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki -- 13mins
Image from Locky's English Playground
All together, the result is as follows:
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle --  8 mins
  • ACE Sanuki Udon                       -- 10 mins
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon                   --  8 mins
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki     -- 13 mins
I would love to tell you that although you can control your own time of cooking each of these udon, if you want to follow their recommended time of cooking, then you will have to take the cost of gas into account.

All the instructions at the back of the package
Image from Locky's English Playground
Although Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki is the cheapest and ACE Sanuki Udon has the longest dry length, that also mean you will have to use more gas to cook them because they are the longer two.

For ACE Sanuki Udon, you will need to use 25% more gas and for Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki, 38.5% more!

Ignoring the 0.2cm difference in their dry length, both Aoiyume Kobo Udon and Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle wins this round!

Congratulations to both Aoiyume Kobo Udon and Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle for winning Round 3!

Time to get steamy!
Image from Locky's English Playground

Udon in water for 1 min
Image from Locky's English Playground

Round 4 of the battle is the "Stretch" of the udon noodle

The stretch is measured by the cooked length minus the dry length, divide by the dry length multiply by 100%

Stretch = (cooked length - dry length) / dry length x 100%

Using the recommended time in Round 3 to cook each udon and removing them from the hot water at approximately the last second with the help of the timer on my stove, then placing the udon into cold water for about 1 minute before placing them onto a black tray to compare the length, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...

The stretch of udon
Image from Locky's English Playground
... the stretch of each udon!!!

Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- 26.5cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
ACE Sanuki Udon -- 29.8cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
Aoiyume Kobo Udon -- 24.8cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki -- 29.8cm
Image from Locky's English Playground
All together, the result is as follows:
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- (26.5 - 20.4) / 20.4 x 100% = 29.9%
  • ACE Sanuki Udon                       --  (29.8 - 24.4) / 24.4 x 100% = 22.1%
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon                   --  (24.8 - 20.2) / 20.2 x 100% = 22.8%
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki     --  (29.8 - 23.3) / 23.3 x 100% = 21.8%
From the percentage, we can tell that although ACE Sanuki Udon is the longest dry udon among the four, it's stretch is just roughly the same as Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki and Aoiyume Kobo Udon. What is the most surprising result of all is that the short Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle actually stretches the most by a good 30% from its original dry length.

All four have about the same width and thickness
Image from Locky's English Playground
Given that their dry width and thickness are roughly about the same, Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle really stands out in water absorption. It's one big stick disguises as a needle! So...

Congratulations to Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle for winning Round 4!

Round 5, the final round of the battle, is Edibility! 

This round is subjective, is basically how I felt about these udon when I ate them. You may find the outcome different if you decide to do the same test, but this is my truly unbiased judgement for you as reference.

And the results are,
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- elastic, quite chewy, smooth, slightly sticky
  • ACE Sanuki Udon --  more elastic than the first, recoils on breaking, smooth, thick, non-sticky
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon -- most elastic of all, wheaty, ricey taste, non-sticky
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki -- elastic, chewy but wet and gluey
It is not difficult to pick the best if you read my comments, I'll surely pick Aoiyume Kobo Udon as the winner! It simply stands on top of the rest because it is one that actually has some taste as compared with the others which are plain. 

Aoiyume Kobo Udon -- Winner of edibility
Image from Locky's English Playground
Congratulations to Aoiyume Kobo Udon for winning Round 5! 

But...

if we consider all the factors together, especially the price for what I concern the most as a house chef, I don't think Aoiyume Kobo Udon is worth 35.0 - 58.7% more expensive than the others, so unless it comes with a discount, I will always, I mean always, settle for the others.

So the final question is, which one will I choose to be the winner?

Before I reveal the answer, let me do a quick summary of our current winners.
  • Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle -- Winner of Stretch
  • ACE Sanuki Udon --  Winner of Dry Length
  • Aoiyume Kobo Udon -- Winner of Edibility
  • Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki -- Winner of Price-Per-100g
(Left to Rigth) Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle, ACE Sanuki Udon,
Aoiyume Kobo Udon, Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki
Image from Locky's English Playground
Frankly speaking, Topvalu Udon Noodle Sanuki is alright for home-cooking. It can never be put on a restaurant bowl because of its stickiness, meltiness and lengthy cooking time, but being the cheapest of all four, I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to buy a packet or two, just to fill the stomach.

Aoiyume Kobo Udon comes with the smallest weight of 200g only, the elegant, premier factor is clear as day. It is the best of all four in terms of taste and it may well be a choice for dining business or high-udon gatherings (from high-tea). With that said, it is not necessary to pay an extra 35.0 - 58.7% more for just that little bit of better taste which will most probably go unnoticed when noodles sauce is added. 

Menyuraku Sanuki Udon Noodle has the longest stretch, a great udon to surprise your friends if they are watching you cook, but how often do we do that? It's nice overall, like its price, it stands in the middle, not too cheap to avoid your dubious look and not too costly to make you back off. The purplish colour on the package got me buying it, and that 270g also places it slightly heavier than the most stuck-up Aoiyume Kobo Udon, telling you that "I'm not Hermès, but I'm also not Coach".

Finally,
ACE Sanuki Udon -- Winner of Stage 1
Image from Locky's English Playground
I pick ACE Sanuki Udon as the Winner of Stage 1!!!

I pick it because at a relatively low price of HK$4.98 / 100g and a 10 mins cooking time, it provides the elasticity I would never expect from a long udon, that recoil I got from pulling that noodle was so much fun! It is smooth in the mouth, thick-looking like an udon ought to be (unlike some other one which claim to be udon but felt like noodles) and non-sticky so that it does melt in your mouth to give you that gooey texture.

So...

Congratulations to ACE Sanuki Udon 讃岐うどん for becoming Locky's English Playground, "Battle Of The Udon" Stage 1 Winner !


Icy cold ACE Sanuki Udon in noodles sauce and ground ginger
Image from Locky's English Playground
Please leave a comment if you like this post and would like to see how ACE Sanuki Udon goes head to head against 3 other new udon in Stage 2!

Time for lunch!

For more tips on cooking and food, check out the links below:
http://lockyep.blogspot.hk/search/label/Cooking

http://lockyep.blogspot.hk/search/label/Food


Vocabulary:
elasticity -- (adj)  the ability to stretch:
bite -- (n) [U] the feeling you get when biting something, often a satisfying one 
optimal / optimum-- (adj) best; most likely to bring success or advantage:
stretch -- (n)[U] the degree to which a material can be made longer or wider by pulling:
house chef -- (n) the chef in one's home, the husband or the wife in general
dubious -- (adj)  thought not to be completely true or not able to be trusted:


Resources:
Cooking @ Locky's English Playground
http://lockyep.blogspot.hk/search/label/Cooking

Food @ Locky's English Playground
http://lockyep.blogspot.hk/search/label/Food

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/elasticity?q=elasticity+
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/stretch_10
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/dubious?q=dubious+

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