There's a group of foodies called the Daring Kitchen. You can either be a daring baker or a daring cook. Well, now, those who know me well know I am not a daring baker. Do I need to underline or italicize that? So, I joined the daring cooks side of things. Once a month a challenge is posted. You're supposed to cook whatever it is and post it on a certain day or opt out and let them know. I opted out of the cassoulet with homemade duck confit in January. Something about a party for 170 people at my house. And, two other parties in a month's time. So, this month it's Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. Something I've never made. And, something I never order because sushi is always the first choice. I did try udon noodles once. Hated them. And, was very afraid the soba noodles would be equally bad. So, needless to say, I was totally delighted when the soba noodles were wonderful. Like, if lunch wasn't already made for tomorrow, I'd be making another batch for tomorrow. My guess is this is actually a pretty easy meal to pull together if it's something you've done before. In my case it wasn't and I managed to dirty almost every bowl in the house. But, it was worth it.
for the noodles:
2 qt water plus 2 cups more
6 oz soba noodles
for the sauce:
3 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t dry mustard
1 T vegetable oil
1 T sesame oil
for the toppings (any combination you like):
finely grated daikon
Bring the two quarts of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles
and stir to separate. Add one bundle at a time. Once the water comes back to a boil, add a cup of cold water. Repeat this once or twice. The recipe said twice but our noodles were done after one repetition. Pour the noodles into a colander and rinse them with cold water. Put them in a container and refrigerate them. I know, sounds weird but it really does work. While the noodles are cooling, dice finely or julienne whatever toppings you're going to use. Put each topping in a separate bowl.
We used green onions, cherry tomatoes and baby corn. The latter wasn't on the "list" but it worked just fine. Now, you need to make the sauce by combining all the ingredients. To serve, put some of the noodles in a bowl. Sprinkle the top with some nori and some chopped green onions. We didn't have nori. Oh, well.
The traditional way to eat this is to put the toppings into the sauce, then dip the noodles in and slurp away. We poured a bit of sauce over the noodles and sprinkled them with the toppings we wanted. Much easier and it tasted great. Pretty easy thus far.
Now, it's tempura time...
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup ice water
1/2 c flour, plus more for dredging
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 t baking powder
vegetable oil for deep frying
very cold vegetables or seafood:
green beans, trimmed
eggplant, cut into strips
green bell pepper, cut into strips
carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally
Pour oil into a heavy, deep pan. Bring it to 320 for vegetables and 340 for seafood.
Prep your vegetables.
Mix the ice water and the egg yolk in a bowl. Mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder in another bowl. Add them to the water/yolk mixture all at once. Stir just until combined. Lumps are fine. Place the bowl with the batter inside another bowl filled with ice.
You want the batter to be very cold. The combination of the very cold batter, cold vegetables or seafood and the very hot oil are what will create the crispy tempura. It's called temperature shock.
Put dredging flour in a large, shallow bowl.
Line up your prep station. From the oil out you'll have the tempura batter, the dredging flour then the seafoods and vegetables. We used eggplant, mushrooms and shrimp. I'd do the mushrooms and shrimp again any day. The eggplant, not so much.
Once the oil has reached it's temperature, dredge the food in the flour then in the batter then gently put it into the hot oil. Do a few pieces at a time so the temperature of the oil doesn't drop.
Drain on paper towels.
We served ours with the same dipping sauce we used for the soba noodles.
adapted from The Daring Cooks - recipes provided by Lisa at Blueberry Girl. Her inspirations were from About.com-Japanese food, Globetrotter Diaries, Pink Bites and Itsy Bitsy Foodies.