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Cold Soba Noodles with Daikon
Having watched a master at work in a tiny restaurant in Niseko (Japan) make soba noodles from scratch by hand, anything out of a pack seems to pale in comparison. The good news is that most Japanese do buy soba in packets (although I am on a quest to make my own at some point!).
Good (and healthy) soba should ideally have a high proportion of buckwheat flour. It’s incredibly light to digest and is a favourite with the boys. We like it cold so that the noodle retains its toothsome bite.
This recipe is from one of my favourite books – “Everyday Harumi“, and I haven’t made many changes. She makes the mentsuyu sauce from scratch, and I often make double and freeze half. It does require konbu & bonito flakes, but if you don’t stock these, ½ teaspoon of dashi powder can be substituted.
In another of Harumi’s recipe, she garnishes the soba with finely sliced nori seaweed (also used for sushi), instead of daikon, and that’s delicious too.
Cold Soba Noodles with daikon
The noodles need to be kept al dente. Sometimes it’s quite tricky to work out instructions on the back on the pack, as they are in Japanese. Harumi (and other chefs) recommend putting in a cup of cold water after the water comes to a boil the first time. I have no idea why this is done, but I follow it, and it works well. The best option to check doneness is to try eating a noodle, once the water comes back to a boil the second time (see recipe). To make it vegetarian, skip the dashi or bonito.
To make the sauce: Gently wipe the konbu to wipe off excess salt. Measure the water into a saucepan and add the konbu. Leave for 30min-1hour.
Add the soy sauce, mirin and sugar to the water and konbu and then place of medium heat.
Just before it comes to a boil, add the bonito flakes and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let it stand until all the flakes have sunk to the bottom of the saucepan.If using dashi powder, skip this step, and just add the powder.
Strain out sauce, taste balance of flavours and seasoning. Chill.
Peel and very finely grate the daikon, so it looks potato mash.
Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and add the soba noodles, and give them a stir, so they don’t stick to each other. When the water comes back to a boil, add a cup of cold water. As soon as the water comes back to a boil a second time, check for doneness.
Once the noodles are cooked, strain and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly.
I like to serve the soba on a bed of ice cubes as it keeps them nice and chilled. Divide into bowls, with a few ice cubes at the base. Serve the sauce either in a small dipping bowl, or pour a little over the noodles.
Garnish with small heaps of daikon, sliced spring onions and serve with wasabi on the side if desired. Slurp!
Don't keep the cooked soba hanging around for too long, as it will start to stick and get gummy. If there's a gap between cooking and serving, keep it in chilled water, for up to 30 minutes.