Like Dubai, most of Japan gets hot and humid at this time of the year and my mother in-law knows that Dubai exceeds that hot and humid thing they are experiencing there. Summer in Japan meant eating cold dishes to fight the heat. I got a heavy package a few days back and when I opened it, it was not surprising that she sent me dried soba noodles so we can have that taste of Japan summer – even inside our temperature controlled home.
Not all soba noodles are created equal as there is a different soba noodle in terms of texture, taste and color in different prefectures (provinces) in Japan. I lived in Nagano Prefecture, popular with Shinano or Shinshu soba noodles made with 100% buckwheat flour and water and nothing else. This soba variation is too starchy for me. However, Niigata Prefecture (my husband’s hometown) being a coastal area, adds seaweed (funori) as a bonding agent for their soba noodles. Along with the rich taste of high quality buckwheat, the seaweed adds smoothness in the soba. The one in the middle of the photo is from my mother in-law.
Okay…enough of the Soba 101 lesson. Let’s get to the recipe. It’s really simple – one of those quickie Japanese meals you can do and enjoy.
- 100 g per person (most dried soba noodle packs come in 100 g bundles)
You can try the Hakubaku Organic Soba, Authentic Japanese Buckwheat Noodles sold online at Amazon.
Combine everything in a pan, let boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Let it cool. You can do this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
* Making your own dashi stock
Boil water with sea kelp. Add bonito flakes, simmer more. Drain the bonito flakes, remove the sea kelp. Store for future use.
THE EASY WAY: Buy a concentrated tsuyu or mentsuyu then thin it out with water —>>>
Condiments (either one or all if you like):
- Chopped spring onions (the white stalk part only) – for me this is a must
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Grated wasabi
- Shichimi tohgarashi (7 kinds of pepper)
- Chopped shiso leaves – if this is available
1. Boil water in a big pot.
2. Like how you would cook pasta, add the dried soba noodles in the boiling water. But unlike cooking pasta that requires a ‘rolling boil’, reduce fire to medium so the noodles are just simmering.
3. Depending on the noodles and the cooking directions written on the package, cook the soba noodles for 7-8 minutes or test by easting a strand. It should be cooked well, not al dente like pasta or overcooked mushy.
4. When the soba noodles are cooked, drain them into a colander.
5. Fill the pot with running cold water and return the cooked soba. Yes, you rinse it with cold water to get that starchy smell and texture.
6. Gently swish the noodles with your hand and take a small amount out of the cold water. Allow water to drip off before placing in the zaru or bamboo slats (this serves as a strainer to drain excess water out).
We love our soba noodles cold so after rinsing in cold water, I immerse them in water with ice because the cold water tap in Dubai is not that cold.
7. Sprinkle thin slices of nori seaweed in the soba noodles. You can buy pre-cut nori seaweed in most Japanese grocery stores. If you have the nori sheets the size of an A4 paper, you can improvise and cut it yourself (like what I did).
8. Place the soba mentsuyu (dipping sauce) in small bowls and serve.
Dozo, meshi-agare (Enjoy your meal) !
UAE/Dubai residents can get various Japanese ingredients from the Japanese store, Dean’s Fujiya located near Lamcy Plaza in Bur Dubai. Telephone: 04-337-0401.