Monday, February 14, 2011

The Daring Cooks February 2011 Challenge: Cold Soba Salad & Tempura

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broccoli and mushrooms
This was an exciting and fun challenge for me. While the recipes are not at all complicated, you will find it a bit time consuming.  We invited some family over and enjoyed our food as each variety of tempura was made.  It reminded me of the way food was served to us in China... each dish was brought out one after another.  We had a great time and the food was delicious!

Blog-checking lines: 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, and

Soba is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find buckwheat noodles or flour in our area.  We were allowed to substitute any type of thin noodle so I used Somen Japanese style noodles.

Hiyashi Soba is a popular dish in summer. It's like a noodle salad. Restaurants in Japan serve Hiyashi Soba only in summer. Even if you don't have much appetite because of the heat, Hiyashi Soba can be appetizing. Common Hiyashi Soba toppings are omelet strips, ham, cucumber and grated Daikon. You can also have the noodles just with the dipping sauce.

Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. A light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light and soft wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added.Hiyashi Soba:

Oops... made a mistake and added the dipping sauce to the noodles.
Recipes courtesy of Globetrotter Diaries and Food
Soba Noodles:
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:
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.
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:
2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.    I used a basic vegetable stock.
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
      *Note: If you can’t find Mirin, a substitute recipe can be found HERE

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:
¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions/green onions/scallions, 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 (if you can’t find this just omit from recipe.)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste - roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each

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.

Serving notes: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!
green beans
Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies
Serves 4
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 (traditionally it’s fanned)
      Onions sliced

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.

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.

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.

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.
yellow bell peppers
sweet potatoes


  1. Great that you had such a pleasant time with your family, serving tempura as in China. It looks so delicious!

  2. WOW it sounds like you had the 'back room' working at top speed to get the food out for the family. I love the different sorts of tempura you made also wonderful effort and results on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  3. agreed - it was a "bit" time consuming --- it took me the whole afternoon from start to cleanup! Great job!