9/19/05 | Buckwheat Soba Noodles
[ Currently Eating: Buckwheat Soba Noodles And Tea ]
We eat a lot of Japanese style noodles at our house. I have been meaning to write up a simple recipe on making soba, ramen, somen, and udon, but I just never got around to because usually I’m too hungry to sit around taking lots of pics.
So anyhow, this is going to be about Buckwheat Soba noodles which I think also have Yam in them. (For reference, the extremely thin vermicelli-like noodles are Somen noodles. Slightly thicker noodles, around size of spaghetti are Ramen noodles. The fatter thick noodles that look like fettucine that is round are called Udon noodles). Soba noodles are one of my favorites to make at home. The first thing you’ll notice is they are this weird greyish brown color which may take some getting used to (well, squid ink noodles are black so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch). They get that werid color from the buckwheat and mountain yam paste that is in them.
The texture of the buckwheat noodles can also take some getting used to. They have a slightly gritty feel to them, even when cooked through. They most often come packages of pre-measured individual bundles, usually 3-6 in a pack.
All of these noodles can be eaten various ways, hot and cold, which is nice because you can prepare them based on the weather outside. Cold noodles in the summer are really good, as are hot soup based noodles in the winter. They can also be served outside of soup with a saltier soy based dipping sauce on the side, or in Dashi (Japanese soup stock) that is meant to be drunk along with the noodles.
The secret is in the Dashi, and what goes in it. You can make soup stock much easier and cheaper using “Hon-Dashi” dried soup stock, but the flavor of this owes much to MSG and is quite salty. But I often do it that way if I don’t have Kombu or Katsuo and it comes out fine… so if you do omit those items and just use the hon-dashi.
This is an approximation of how to make hot soba noodles w/ soup. I find that each time the recipe is a bit different but this is basically what I do to make a bowl of the above noodles:
Hot Soba Noodles With Soup
2 “bundles” of dried Buckwheat Noodles — $0.75
3-inch square of dried Kombu (kelp seaweed) — $0.25
1 cup of Katsuo (dried bonito flakes) — $0.30
2 green onions – $0.10
2 tbsp Mirin (sweet rice wine) – $0.25
4 tbsp Soy Sauce – $0.05
1 small piece of ginger, smashed – $0.10
salt – negligible
2 eggs (if desired for egg pancake) – $0.30
1/2 tbsp oil – $0.05
4 cups water, plus more for boiling noodles – negligible
Start boiling a large pot of water for noodles. In another medium sized pot, put the 4 cups water and the piece of Kombu over low heat. Now make the egg pancake (if you want). Beat eggs in small bowl with 1 pinch of salt. Over low heat in an omlette skillet, heat up oil for 30 seconds. Add eggs and cook for about 1 minute. Using spatula, lift up the edges of the egg cake. Now cover it and cook until the top is just barely solid. Flip it with the spatula, turn off heat and let cool in pan. Cut into slices and set aside.
When the Kombu-water boils REMOVE the Kombu. A little goes a long way, so no need to leave it in. Add Mirin, Soy Sauce, Ginger and the white ends of the two Green Onions, smashed. Cook until it boils, then reduce heat to as low as possible and keep it simmering.
When the water in the large pot boils, throw in the Buckwheat Soba. Keep a cup of cold water on hand. The Soba makes the water boil over sometimes, so if things start to get hairy, throw in some cold water. Cook until al dente, and then RINSE WELL under cold water in colander. This is opposite of what they tell you with Italian noodles, but very important. In fact, some people use ice to cool the noodles down quickly.
Now add the Katsuo (dried bonito flakes) to the dashi soup stock. You absolutely need to add this near the end for full effect. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Strain the bonito, onion bits, and ginger out of the stock into another bowl. Put the stock back in the pot and keep it hot.
Slice up the remaining green onion into slivers. Arrange the noodles in a bowl with the sliced egg and green onion on top. Pour the soup stock on top of the noodles. Sprinkle some Japanese pepper flakes on the top if you like.
There are probably a billion other things you can have as toppings on noodles like this, ranging from Nori (the familiar flat dried seaweed used around sushi), to Japanese Fishcake (Chikua or Kamaboko) to cooked vegetables like carrots, spinach, and watercress.
I have to say that I only make the “real” Dashi soup stock about half the time. The problem is that both Kombu (kelp) and Kastuo (dried bonito) are not exactly the cheapest thing around. It also takes a heck of a time longer. The instant Hon-Dashi I mentioned is extremely fast and probably much cheaper. It consists of tiny dehydrated bits of soup stock made of the aforementioned two items plus a generous helping of MSG.
If you are doing “cold” dipping sauce noodles, you can actually buy pre-made bottles of dashi at the supermarket (or asian food grocer, if you have one). They also sell “fresh” made noodles, and in particular Udon and Ramen are good ones to get non-dried. Soba and Somen are pretty much OK in dried form.
For those that don’t know what Kombu looks like, here is a package of it. It basically is a special kind of dried kelp. It has a really complex, earthy smell to it that a lot of people think is fishy. Rather, I think it is exactly like the smell of the seashore up close… it’s a smell that is rather hard to describe but certainly isn’t fishy. I think it is the base for a whole bunch of different stocks for soup…
Katsuo Flakes come from Bonito and/or Skipjack (which are smaller members of the tuna family) and this stuff IS more fishy. However, because it is shaved into paper thin slices and dried it has a more “toasty” aroma to it. Combine this with the Kombu and you’ve got a really delicious stock.
It’s interesting how the Katsuo looks exactly like Wood Shavings, however. Even the patterns of the “grain” lines from the sliced fish sort of looks like the grain of the wood in wood shavings!
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10 (using Kombu and Katsuo)
Cheap Eats Score: 8/10 (using Hon-Dashi)