Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cold Soba Noodles and Veggie Tempura

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
When I was a vegetarian, every time we would go to a Japanese restaurant for lunch or dinner, I would always order tempura vegetables.  I loved them, especially the sweet potatoes.  I was always curious how they cooked the vegetables perfectly encased in a crunchy, slightly fluffy batter.  Ohhh, and with the dipping sauce... om nom nom.  The eternal trick was always trying to bite a large piece of sweet potato or zucchini in half, after dipping it in the sauce, while tenuously holding it with your chopsticks.  And trying not to dribble the sauce ALL. DOWN. YOUR. CHIN.

Minds out of the gutter people.

Clockwise from the top: snap peas, sweet potato, shrimp,
mushrooms, and red bell peppers in the middle
I was so glad that tempura was part of the challenge this month because I may have never tried it otherwise.  Not nearly as hard as I anticipated.  (that's what she said!).

Great, now you've really got me going.

Moving on.

The directions in the challenge were spot-on and I felt that luckily, my chopstick-skills were up to snuff.

For the Soba:
12 oz Soba (buckwheat) noodles
2 qts water

1) Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water, approx 7-10min, read the package.  Wow, that was easy wasn't it?
2) Once they are done, drain the noodles and rinse under cold water to cool and remove the extra starch.  Keep them in the colander covered by a damp towel until you're read to use them.

Mentsuyu (the noodle sauce):
2 C Kombu dashi (I just heated some nori in hot water and then filtered it, lazy me)
1/3 C soy sauce
1/3 C mirin (sweet rice wine)

1) Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently.  Add soy sauce and the dashi soup stock (or if you're lazy like me, the nori soup stock).  Bring to a boil.  Take off the heat and cool.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

1 egg yolk
1 C iced water
1/2 C flour, plus extra for dredging
1/2 C cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
vegetable oil, for frying
ice water bath, for the batter
cold, sliced vegetables/fish:

  • sweet potato, peeled, sliced and blanched
  • carrot, peeled, sliced
  • green beans
  • snap peas
  • bell pepper, sliced
  • mushrooms
  • eggplant, sliced
  • zucchini, sliced
  • shrimp, shelled

1) Place ice water in a mixing bowl.  Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (with chopsticks!) and blending well.  Add flours and baking powder all at once, mix with the chopsticks until loosely combined.  The batter should be runny and lumpy.  Keep the batter cold by placing it in the ice water bath.
2) Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan (320F for veggies, 340F for seafood).
3) Starting with the veggies, use your chopsticks to grab a veggie, then dip it into a shallow bowl of flour, then into the tempura batter.  Slide the veggie into the hot oil, trying not to overcrowd the pan and drop the temperature of the oil.
4) Place the finished tempura pieces on a wire rack or paper towel to drain. 
5) Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean.
6) Serve immediately with dipping sauce (recipe below)

Spicy Dipping Sauce:
3/4 C soy sauce
3/4 C scallions, finely chopped
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp English mustard powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper, to taste 
2 tbsp water

1) Put all the ingredients in a covered container.  Close the lid and shake the S^&T out of it until the solids (sugar, salt, mustard) are dissolved.  Add and shake in the water and re-season if necessary.

Serve the tempura and soba noodles for dinner.  Pat yourself on the back for making something that seemed so hard and was actually quite easy.  Pop open the special bottle of saki that you bought just for this occasion and make a toast.  To Soba!  To Tempura!  To Laura!


    1. I love the sweet potatoes the best as well....I made sure to make lots of those! Your tempura turned out great! Good job on your challenge!

    2. WOW your tempura looks so stunning the batter is so thin and crispy. And yes sweet potato is my favourite after perilla leaves LOL LOL. Wonderful photos as well great work on this challenge.

      Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.


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