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
I have to say we love Japanese food in this house so I couldn't wait to get stuck in with this one. My tempura wasn't as light and crisp as I would have liked - probably the oil wasn't hot enough or the batter cold enough. I also made the spicy dipping sauce just a little too spicy for Steve and myself - oops. Enjoyed the challenge immensely - especially the little tips I picked up here and there - like how to make the Japanese omelette.
Ingredients 2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate 12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Cooking the noodles:
1. Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil 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 for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
2. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are 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 cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:
Ingredients 2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi or a basic vegetable stock; 1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce; 1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
1. 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:
Ingredients ¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions, finely chopped; 3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce; 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar; ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 ⅔ gm) (0.16 oz) granulated sugar; ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder; 1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil; 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste - roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each.
1. 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.
Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:
• Boiled chicken breasts
• Boiled bean sprouts
• Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
• Green onions
• Wasabi powder
• Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.
Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions. The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!
Ingredients 1 egg yolk from a large egg; 1 cup (240 ml) iced water; ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging; ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch); ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder; oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable; ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:
• Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
• Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
• Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
• Green beans, trimmed
• Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
• Assorted fresh mushrooms
• Eggplant cut into strips
• Onions sliced
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, 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.
4. 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.
* Japanese thin omelette (usuyaki tamago) from Just Hungry
1 Tbs. water or dashi stock
1 tsp. sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp. cornstarch or potato starch (_katakuriko_), dissolved in 1 Tbs. water - optional
peanut oil or similar flavorless oil for cooking
Beat the egg and water or dashi together. Add the sugar and salt and beat until dissolved. The cornstarch is optional, but it does add some more strength and stability of the thin egg. You may want to use cornstarch when you are making usuyakitamago for wrapping something in.
To ensure a very smooth egg batter, strain the beaten egg mixture through a sieve or a large-mesh tea strainer.
Heat up a nonstick frying pan over a low-medium heat and coat with a little oil: Pour some into the pan, then use a paper towel to spread it around and wipe up any excess oil.
Add a little of the egg mixture (ho much depends on the size of your frying pan, but for a small 18cm/6 inch pan allow about 1/8th cup) and rapidly swirl it around until it just coats the bottom.
Cook on low heat just until the egg is set - this should only take a minute or so. It’s done when the edges are dry and the top is just about cooked.
Loosen up the edges with a spatula, then flip the pan upside down onto a plate - the omelette should flop out, like a crepe. Let cool.
You should get about 3 usuyaki tamago per egg. If you find the pan is getting too hot and the egg is browning too much, cool off the pan by pressing it lightly on a folded moistened kitchen towel.
To use as garnish, fold 1 or 2 usuyaki tamago over into thirds, and cut into thin strips or julienne with a sharp knife. This is called kinshi tamago, scattered on the top of sushi, noodles, and so on.
Have a look at the daring cooks' blogroll to see other versions of this dish.