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Helping noodle wheat meet Japanese expectations

The official udon sensory evaluation panel.
Photo: AEGIC

Noodle lovers in Japan know exactly what they want when it comes to udon. The perfect udon noodles should have a mouthfeel known as ‘mochi mochi’ – a unique balance of softness and firmness, combined with good elasticity and a slight stickiness. Appearance is also crucial; udon noodles must have a bright and creamy, very slightly yellow colour, with good colour stability – in other words, they stay looking good for longer.

Japanese flour millers know that the best wheat for udon is grown in Australia – specifically Western Australia. For almost 35 years, Japan has exclusively imported noodle wheat from WA that has been bred especially for udon. WA supplies about 750,000 tonnes of a special noodle wheat blend to Japan at a value of about $300 million annually.

The Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) is Australia’s market-facing agency for the Japanese noodle market, in collaboration with the Grain Industry Association of WA’s Wheat Council. For more than 10 years, AEGIC has been central to supporting this market through sensory assessment of new varieties, as well as providing technical support, crop reports and resources to address seasonal issues. Korea is the only other market that currently imports noodle wheat from WA.

Udon sensory evaluation is critical

In December 2023, AEGIC hosted a visiting udon expert from the Japan Flour Millers Association (JFMA) as part of the official udon sensory evaluation program, which has been running for many years.

The evaluation involves blind sensory testing (mouthfeel, appearance, taste) of unreleased wheat varieties to help with classification and to ensure Australian wheat meets Japanese requirements.

Earlier in 2023, AEGIC travelled to Japan with breeding company InterGrain to evaluate incoming Australian Noodle Wheat (ANW) lines with flour millers.

In Tokyo, the group hosted joint sensory evaluation with the JFMA and put a brand-new ANW variety (developed by InterGrain) to the ultimate test. The work conducted by AEGIC in this field is highly respected, and its independence was recognised by JFMA as critically important.

As announced by InterGrain in 2023, the new variety is named Firefly and is expected to become a major ANW variety popular with growers.

AEGIC supported InterGrain with independent quality and sensory testing of the new variety as it was developed.

Korea: another important market

The Korean noodle wheat blend is different to Japan’s and is used for other types of noodles as well as udon.

AEGIC travelled with InterGrain to work with Korean millers to benchmark several varieties for their suitability for Korean white salted style noodles. Some great insights were gathered for potential improvement to the Korean noodle wheat blend.

Japan and Korea: uniquely stable markets

The Japanese and Korean noodle wheat markets are uniquely stable in both volume and value. The value to growers of producing udon noodle wheat, compared to other classes, is approximately $16.6 per hectare – a 34 per cent boost to growers’ profit. Put another way – WA’s noodle wheat classes add an estimated $35 to $70 million in extra revenue each year for growers.

The Japanese market is particularly important. The ongoing success of the relationship between WA and Japan is mutually beneficial and each partner is prepared to invest resources to ensure its success. The entire supply chain, from the grower in WA to the consumer in Japan, benefits from this investment.

AEGIC is an initiative of the Western Australian State Government and Grains Australia. GRDC provides investment to Grains Australia, which in turn invests in AEGIC.

This story also appeared in AEGIC’s Insider newsletter. You can sign up for the newsletter at

More information: Dr Larisa Cato,

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