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.

This month’s challenge was super exciting because I love, and I do mean loooove, eating Japanese food! So when I saw soba noodles and tempura were on the menu I was through the roof. For this challenge we were to make Hiyashi Soba, a popular soba noodle salad reserved primarily for summer. Soba noodles are a thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. They are usually served cold with a dipping sauce (as in this dish), or in a hot broth as a noodle soup (which is how I’ve normally had them up until this challenge). We were also challenged to make tempura. 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) and wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added. I don’t do any deep frying in my kitchen, so I opted for a baked version of the tempura. While still tasty (and a whole let healthier), it really doesn’t hold a candle to the traditional deep fried version.

I must say that after this challenge I have completely fallen in love with cold soba noodles, and the provided spicy dipping sauce recipe is definitely a keeper! I love the fresh flavors and simplicity of this dish, and can definitely see a lot more Hiyashi Soba on the menu come summer!

You can get the recipes and learn how to serve Hiyashi Soba after the jump.

Hiyashi Soba
Recipes courtesy of Globetrotter Diaries and About.com-Japanese Food
Serves 4

Soba Noodles:

Ingredients
2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)

Directions:

Cooking the noodles:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Ingredients
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

Directions:

  1. 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:

Ingredients
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

Directions

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
  • Ham
  • Boiled chicken breasts
  • Cucumber
  • Boiled bean sprouts
  • Tomatoes
  • 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.

Serving:

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.

Baked Tempura (Vegan)
The baked tempura recipe can be found in The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray. The recipe has also been shared on Chow Vegan.

To get the traditional tempura recipe and to see all of the stunning creations, please visit The Daring Cooks

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