Tasteful Aussie noodles win a Japanese market

Asian specialists join AGWEST researchers as they test for the perfect (udon) noodle from Western Australian wheats bred to satisfy the needs of the Asian market. Seen here, AGWEST cereal chemist Graham Crosbie, with Tomoo Moro of Nippon Flour Mills.

Japan pays a premium for wheat suitable for making white udon noodles. For the past decade AGWEST, with GRDC support, has been working on improving wheats suitable for these noodles.

To ensure the wheat met the exacting standards of the target market, the AGWEST researchers initially ran a visiting experts program to learn the established Japanese methods. This included extensive training of laboratory staff to form a sensory testing panel, able to confidently judge noodle quality.

According to AGWEST cereal chemist Graham Crosbie, a critical trait for making udon noodles is the wheat's starch characteristics, which have a strong influence on the final product. The researchers have developed rapid tests for screening starch quality in wheat, which can be used with early generation material.

The screening tests have allowed a vigorous program of release of high-yielding varieties, resulting in Cadoux, released in 1992, followed by Arrino in 1997 and Calingiri a year later. The new varieties showed a progressive increase in yield while retaining the important starch qualities the market wants.

Most recently, a molecular marker has been established that will assist in identifying further lines with preferred starch swelling characteristics. The molecular marker was developed in association with the State Agricultural Biotechnology Centre.

Such attention to the target market has paid off tremendously. Western Australia now exports up to 1 million tonnes of wheat per year to Japan for udon noodles. The noodle wheat segregation which began in 1989-90 and separate pooling which began in 1992-93 have been important in encouraging growers to grow these wheats and thus retain Australia's Japanese market share.

Program 1.2.1 Contact: Mr Richard Williams 03 9209 2055 (AWB), Mr Graham Crosbie 08 9368 3504