Citizens, as we continue onwards through the TFD “Week of Pasta”, know with certainty that not all pasta is even made from wheat flour! For example, Japanese Soba noodles are made mostly from buckwheat! One of my favorite Zen-simple noodle dishes is cold soba noodles, known as Zaru Soba.
Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and it also means the noodles made from buckwheat flour. In Japan, soba noodles are served either simply chilled with a dipping sauce or in hot broth as a noodle soup.
Cold soba noodles are typically served in zaru, which means bamboo basket in Japanese. The chilled noodles are served with toppings of green onions l, grated daikon radish and wasabi plus a dipping sauce called Mentsuyu.
Mentsuyu ( めんつゆ ) is a Japanese soup base used in soba and udon noodle dishes. It’s made from mirin, sugar and soy sauce – the combination of which is called ‘kaeshi’, combined with konbu seaweed and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), which is the base for dashi, the Japanese soup “stock”.
There are two types of mentsuyu: kaketsuyu, which is poured hot over boiled noodles to make noodle soup, and tsuketsuyu which literally means “dipping soup” for chilled noodles. For this Zaru soba recipe, we are making tsuketsuyu.
Mentsuyu brings complex umami flavour to both soup and noodle dishes. As well as serving mentsuyu alongside piles of cold noodles, this base can also be diluted with hot water for a seasoned soup broth to enjoy with hot noodles.
Citizens, enjoy your own moment of Zen satori (enlightenment) – try these delicious noodles today! My recipe offers no shortcuts, only the finest in flavors – the dipping sauce involves a bit of work, but it makes more then you need and keeps in the fridge. 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
150ml soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sugar
1 2×2 inch kombu
1 cup packed Katsuobushi – dried bonito flakes
For The Zaru Soba:
12 ounces dry soba noodles, preferably 80 percent buckwheat – unless you know a good Japanese grocery store, the best bet for high-quality 80 percent buckwheat soba (hachiwari soba) is to mail order it. Katagiri is a great source of high-quality soba and other Japanese ingredients (www.katagiri.com).
1 sheet nori seaweed, toasted lightly over a gas flame and julienned
¼ cup finely sliced scallions, for garnish
¼ cup finely grated daikon, for garnish
Pepare the kaeshi first. Add the mirin to a saucepan and heat until it starts to bubble which will remove all the alcohol. Add the sugar to the pan while the heat is still on and mix it well so that the sugar dissolves.
Once you have obtained a smooth mixture, add the soy sauce to the pan and continue to mix.
Turn off the heat when the temperature reaches approximately 85°C. Once it reaches this temperature you may be able to see a thin film on top of the liquid. Make sure that the mixture doesn’t boil over as this will impair the taste.
Now that your kaeshi is finished, you can leave it to rest for a day or two. This helps to infuse the flavours together for a richer taste.
Prepare a simple katsuobushi bonito flake dashi.
Start by boiling 300ml of water in a saucepan.
Turn off heat, then add konbu. Let sit for two minutes, then add katsuobushi. Remove konbu.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and set aside until cool down.
Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and the Mentsuyu is ready to use. If you follow this recipe, you will end up with more kaeshi than dashi, so store the kaeshi in the fridge and make some new dashi when you want to make mentsuyu again.
For the tsuketsuyu dipping sauce, you dilute the concentrated mentsuyu with 3 parts water. For a soup base, you will likely dilute the concentrate with 4 or 5 parts water.
You can store in the refrigerator up to a month.
For The Chilled Zaru Soba:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Add the soba and reduce the heat to medium. When the water comes back to a boil, stir the noodles with chopsticks and add about ¾ cup cold water. When the water returns to a boil, add more cold water and repeat this process one more time.
Cook the noodles until slightly al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. (If using soba with a high percentage of wheat flour, cook it in boiling water without adding cold water for about 6 minutes.) Drain the soba and rinse under cold running water, running your fingers through the noodles to untangle.
Transfer the soba to a tray lined with paper towels and drain until dry. Place in a bowl and refrigerate, covered, until cool. If the noodles clump together, rinse and dry again.
To serve, divide the soba among Japanese bamboo baskets or rustic ceramic bowls, and sprinkle each portion with toasted nori.
Serve the garnishes and individual small bowls of the chilled dipping sauce on the side. To eat, either grab a tangle of soba with chopsticks and dunk it in the dipping sauce bowl, or spoon some dipping sauce over your portion.