Japanese Buckwheat Noodles
Soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles are the traditional Japanese fast food, developed centuries ago as the perfect instant meal. They're light and digestible in summer, heartily warming in winter, and deliciously satisfying at any time of day. Like many of Japan's traditional foods, behind its image of utter simplicity, soba has been a tradition for centuries steeped in the lore of regional areas. Sakurai Noodle Company is located in Nagano, the heart of the land once known as Shinano, and recognized widely as the "home of soba."
Uses: Soba is traditionally served both hot and cold. Best when served with a dipping broth on the side with kizami nori or wasabi, in hot broth topped with tempura or vegetables, or served fried in yakisoba.
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Cooking with Soba
During the heat of summer, noodles are deliciously refreshing when served floating in a bowl of ice water and accompanied by a chilled dipping sauce. For warmth in the winter, noodles are commonly served in piping hot broth. Whether in soups or salads, sautéed with vegetables, deep-fried, baked, or topped with sauce, noodles are delicious.
Quick to prepare, they provide the perfect solution when you have unexpected guests. In the time it takes for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, you can prepare a broth or sauce and a vegetable dish and voilà! In twenty minutes you can create a nutritious and satisfying meal.
Since most Japanese noodles are made with salt, it is not necessary or advisable to add salt to the cooking water. In a large pot, bring the water (about ten cups of water for every eight ounces of noodles) to a full rolling boil. Add the noodles a few at a time so as not to completely stop the boiling. Stir gently until the water is boiling rapidly again to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If too many noodles are added at once, the water will not quickly return to a boil and the noodles will be overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside. Also, using too little water will result in sticky, unevenly cooked noodles.
There are two acceptable methods for cooking noodles. The first method is quite basic. Simply bring the water in the pot back to a rapid boil once all the noodles have been added (as just described), then cook the noodles over medium heat until done. The second method is known as the "shock method". Once the noodles have been added to the pot and the water returns to a rolling boil, a cup of cold water is added to "shock" the noodles. When the water returns to a boil again, another cup of cold water is added. This is repeated three or four times until the noodles are cooked. No matter which method is used, noodles should be tested often to avoid overcooking. A properly cooked noodle should be slightly chewy. When broken in half, the noodle should be the same color throughout.
Once cooked, immediately drain and rinse the noodles in two or three cold-water baths or under cold running water to prevent further cooking and to keep the noodles from sticking together. When they have cooled enough to handle, drain and set aside until ready to assemble your dish. If reheating is necessary, place individual noodles in a strainer or colander and submerge in a pot of boiling water until just heated. Drain well and serve.
The noodle cooking water can be reserved, allowed to sour slightly, and then used as a natural leavening agent in breads, muffins, and pancakes.
Cool and refreshing when little else appeals, this traditional noodle dish is a favorite Japanese lunch on a hot summer day. Light, delicate soba varieties such as ito, cha, and mugwort soba are especially appealing. Whole wheat somen noodles are a good substitute.
3 cups Shiitake Dashi (See Shiitake Mushroom recipes)
1/8 teaspoon Masu 100% Sea Water Salt
3 tablespoons Johsen Shoyu or wheat-free Mitoku Yaemon Tamari
2 tablespoons Mitoku Mikawa Mirin
8 ounces uncooked Mitoku 100% Soba
1 teaspoon Mitoku Wasabi Powder (Japanese horseradish), optional
1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger root
1/4 sheet Mitoku Kizami Nori (Razor-thin cut nori)
3 tablespoons minced scallions
Prepare stock in a medium-sized pot. Add salt, shoyu or tamari, and mirin. Simmer 1 minute, remove from heat, and refrigerate.
Cook noodles according to the directions on the package, then rinse under cold running water, drain, and set aside. Add one drop of water at a time to wasabi and mix until it forms a thick paste. Prepare other condiments. Divide cooked noodles into small noodle baskets, plates, or soup bowls. (If noodles stick together, rinse under cold water and drain well before serving.)
Pour chilled dipping broth into small individual bowls. Set out prepared wasabi, ginger, nori, and scallion in separate bowls so they can be added to the broth according to individual tastes. (About 2 teaspoons scallion and 1/8 teaspoon wasabi or ginger is recommended for every 1/2-2/3 cup broth.) Dip each bite of noodles in chilled broth. If dip becomes weak, replace with fresh broth.
Spicy Soba Salad
Vary the vegetables according to availability. Fresh peas, corn, red and green bell pepper, and radishes are good, colorful options.
8 ounces Mitoku Sakurai 40% Soba
1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut into 1 1/2 inch matchsticks
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
2 scallions, slivered
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon Mitoku Virgin Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Mitoku Toasted Sesame Oil
1/4 teaspoon Mitoku Hot and Spicy Sesame Oil
2 tablespoons Mitoku Yaemon Tamari or Johsen Shoyu
1/4 teaspoon Masu 100% Sea Water Salt
3 tablespoons Mitoku Kyushu Brown Rice Vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Break noodles into 3 or 4 even lengths and cook according to the directions on the package. Rinse noodles under cold running water, drain, and set aside
Parboil carrots and broccoli for 2 minutes, rinse under cold water, and drain well. Combine all vegetables with cooked noodles in a medium-sized bowl.
Whisk dressing ingredients together and add to noodle mixture. Toss gently and serve.
Noodle rolls require a delicate hand but are not difficult to make. When patiently and skillfully prepared, the reward is a beautiful, elegant, and tasty main dish. For variety, add other ingredients with the noodles to fill the rolls. Strips of fried tempeh or seitan, sauerkraut, blanched scallion greens, radish sprouts, and toasted and ground sesame seeds are excellent filling choices.
8 ounces uncooked Mitoku Cha Soba or Jinenjo Soba
4 sheets Mitoku Toasted Nori
1-1 1/2 teaspoons Mitoku Wasabi Powder (Japanese horseradish)
1 1/2 tablespoons Mitoku Johsen Shoyu
1 1/2 tablespoons kombu stock (Mitoku Kombu Powder mixed with water)
1 1/2 teaspoons Mitoku Mikawa Mirin
Cook noodles according to the directions on the package. Rinse under cold running water or in a cold water bath until cool enough to handle, then drain thoroughly. Once drained, neatly arrange noodles on a clean, dry towel. Spread them out in even lines from left to right.
Toast nori (or use pre-toasted sushi nori). Place one sheet of nori, toasted side down, on a sushi mat, small towel, or counter. Lay one quarter of the noodles side by side across the nori. (There should be 1/2 inch of uncovered nori at the bottom and the top.) Roll up nori as firmly as possible. Let the roll rest on its seam. Repeat with remaining sheets of nori and noodles.
Using a sharp knife (and cleaning the blade after each cut), carefully slice rolls in half, then cut each half into 3 equal pieces.
Make dipping sauce by combining shoyu, water or stock, and mirin in a small bowl. Place in small individual saucers. Add one drop of water at a time to wasabi, and mix until it forms a thick paste.
To serve, place noodle roll pieces, cut side up, on a platter along with mound of wasabi paste. Add wasabi to individual bowls of dipping sauce. Wasabi is strong-flavored, so begin by adding a small amount to sauce, then add more depending on individual taste.