It took me forever to decide on what dish to choose, my nearest and dearest kept urging me to choose something that reflected my background and influences, but that was the problem. I’m what’s known as a ‘Third-Culture-Kid’ I was born in Malaysia, grew up half in Australia with a foster family who introduced me to Indian food, and my Mum with a Scottish/ English background and half with my Dad in Japan.
Download the printable .pdf file HERE
Throw in teenage years in South America, and my ‘background’ was becoming very confused. So I’ve chosen a dish that brings back memories of summer afternoons in Japan, a dish I love. It’s simple, flavorful with endless varieties, it’s fun, it’s food to share, and it’s a little bit from everywhere.
Your best preparation for this challenge is to watch this very entertaining video.
Soba is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn.
Hiyashi Soba is a popular dish in summer. It’s like a noodle salad. Restaurants in Japan serve Hiyashi Soba only in summer. Even if you don’t have much appetite because of the heat, Hiyashi Soba can be appetizing. Common Hiyashi Soba toppings are omelet strips, ham, cucumber and grated Daikon. You can also have the noodles just with the dipping sauce.
Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. A light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light and soft wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added.
Recipe Source: I’ve had many different versions of this dish so I’ve combined a few different recipes from around the WWW. Most notably: Zaru Soba Noodles from About.com-Japanese Food; Zaru Soba from Globetrotter Diaries; Perfect Tempura from Pink Bites; Tempura from Itsy Bitsy Foodies; and my Japanese stepmother.
Blog-checking lines: The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com
Posting Date: February 14, 2011
Download the printable .pdf file HERE
Note: The most important thing is not to overcook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared beforehand, so don’t rush.
Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches using chopsticks for only a few seconds, leaving lumps in the mixture that, along with the cold batter temperature, result in the unique fluffy and crisp tempura structure when cooked. The batter is often kept cold by adding ice, or by placing the bowl inside a larger bowl with ice in it. Over-mixing the batter will result in activation of wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become chewy and dough-like when fried.
Mandatory Items: As long as some form of Tempura vegetable or seafood and a cold noodle salad is made feel free to shine. Please respect Japanese cooking/eating by keeping your food, clean, fresh and simple.
Variations allowed: The great thing about this dish is it allows for so many variations. Vegans and Vegetarians just omit any of the meat toppings and let the vegetables shine. This dish is very adaptable, so feel free to use your favorite gluten free noodles and flour. Make something that you can eat and enjoy, because that is what food is about. As soba may be difficult to obtain in some areas, please feel free to use whatever thin noodles you can get, preferably Asian. If anyone wants to be especially Daring, feel free to make your own noodles!
10 Minutes for the sauce
10 Minutes for the noodles
30 Minutes for Vegetable Preparation
5 Minutes to Serve
Depending on you, I can make this meal, from walking in the door after work to sitting down to eat in under 30 minutes, so it should be pretty quick.
20 minutes vegetable preparation
10 minutes making the batter
30 minutes frying time
Again it depends how much your making and what equipment your using.
•A chopping Board
•A Deep pan for frying
•Oil for frying
•Small tongs or Chopsticks
•Covered container for shaking dipping sauce
2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Cooking the noodles:
- Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
- Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce:
2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
*Note: If you can’t find Mirin, a substitute recipe can be found HERE
- Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 ⅔ gm) (0.16 oz) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil (if you can’t find this just omit from recipe.)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each
1.Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.
Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:
- Thin omelet strips
- Boiled chicken breasts
- Boiled bean sprouts
- Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
- Green onions
- Wasabi powder
- Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
- Beni Shoga (Pickled Ginger)
All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.
Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.
The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:
- Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
- Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
- Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
- Green beans, trimmed
- Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
- Assorted fresh mushrooms
- Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
- Onions sliced
- Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
- Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
- Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
- Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
- Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.
Great instructions on preparing the noodles
How to make Tempura Soba
Someone who did it well
A collection of videos on how to prepare the vegetables for Tempura