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WA, Japan celebrate 30-year anniversary of udon noodle wheat segregation

WA noodle wheat growers Steph and Barry Clarke, Dr Graham Crosbie and visiting Japanese noodle expert Shunsuke Otsubo.
Photo: AEGIC

Sensory evaluation of udon noodles remains a key part of this important WA wheat market.

The official 2019 udon noodle sensory evaluation program took place at the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) during October, as Western Australia and Japan celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the unique noodle wheat segregation.

Since 1989, 13 highly trained Japanese noodle specialists have visited Australia to help assess unreleased wheat varieties that have been purpose-bred for Japanese udon noodles.

Core pillar of relationship

AEGIC wheat quality technical markets manager Dr Larisa Cato says sensory evaluation is a core pillar of the special noodle relationship between Western Australia and Japan.

"AEGIC runs the sensory program in collaboration with the Japan Flour Millers Association," she says.

"Australian breeding companies submit their advanced, unreleased noodle wheat varieties to the panel to see if they're up to scratch for the discerning Japanese market.

"We mill the wheat samples into flour and then make the noodles in-house here at AEGIC before putting them through rigorous assessment for quality."

Australian breeding companies submit their advanced, unreleased noodle wheat varieties to the panel to see if they're up to scratch for the discerning Japanese market. - AEGIC wheat quality technical markets manager Dr Larisa Cato

A visiting noodle expert from the Japan Flour Millers Association was with AEGIC for a month in October to help with noodle sensory evaluation.

Mouth-feel, appearance are critical

Dr Cato says sensory assessment is largely about mouth-feel and appearance.

"The perfect udon noodles should have a 'mochi mochi' mouth-feel," she says.

"Mochi mochi is a unique balance of softness and firmness, combined with good elasticity and a slight stickiness.

"As for appearance, udon noodles should have a creamy, bright, slightly yellow colour which is stable, so noodles made today will look similar tomorrow."

Dr Cato paid tribute to Dr Graham Crosbie, the now-retired WA Department of Agriculture cereal scientist who successfully lobbied for the noodle wheat segregation back in 1989.

"Building on pioneering research by Jack Toms and others, Graham recognised that there was a rare opportunity to build a unique, high-value market which would benefit not only Japanese consumers, but WA growers as well," she says.

"Without Graham's vision, the highly successful and mutually beneficial udon noodle relationship between WA and Japan may never have happened."

NOTE: AEGIC is an initiative of GRDC and the Western Australian Government.

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