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
Besides being my very first Daring Kitchen's challenge, it was my first meeting with Japanese food (except sushi, as you may presume). I was absolutely frighten of making those kind of food - buckwheat noodles, tempura... And I was worried that I could not find that kind of noodles in Sofia and will have to substitute them.
But, for my please, I've found even two kinds - plain and green tea flavored.
I choose the Green Tea ones, for their nice green color - as you may see for my blog pictures are the most important thing :-).
So I made green tea soba with both sauces (as I couldn't find dashi I've used some Thai fish sause for a substitute to make the broth), some fresh veggies and made the tempura with tiger shrimp, squid and tuna slices and spring onion.
And now the recipes:
For the Soba you will need:
2l water + 1 cup cold water, separate
340g dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Boil 2l. of water 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. 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 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 set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:
480ml Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi or a basic vegetable stock - I've used fish stock flavoured with some Thai fish sauce
80 ml soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
80 ml mirin (sweet rice wine)
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:
2 stalks spring onions/green onions, finely chopped
45 ml soy sauce
30 ml rice vinegar
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder - I've used some Wasabi powder
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
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.
For topping the Soba I've used finely julienned fresh cucumbers, carrots, red and green bell peppers.
For the Tempura you will need:
1 egg yolk
1 cup iced water
½ cup flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter
I've chosen tiger shrimp, squid and tuna slices and spring onion.
You may want to see this video.
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, 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.
At the end I want to say that this meal had surprised me very nicely, both with its taste, its colors and the ease of preparation! And may be in summer, when it will be not so cold in here (lol) I will make it again. And again.