29 September 2009

Zaru Soba at home

Soba noodles are my favorite food (tied with peaches or pizza), but this fast food, ubiquitous in Japan—at every train station, even!—is hard to find at U.S. Japanese restaurants. Zaru Soba means cold, soup-less soba noodles with toppings and a dipping sauce. It somehow manages to be incredibly delicious, attractive, and healthy, all at once.

Good soba noodles are at least 80% buckwheat. The remaining ingredient is usually whole wheat. In this country you can buy delicious, good-quality 100% buckwheat noodles from Eden Foods. Although they are wheat free, they are not gluten-free because they are made on equipment that processes wheat. Or you can go to your local Asian grocer and peer at the Japanese or Korean writing on the soba and hope for the best. The darkest, thickest noodles without food coloring and with buckwheat/soba listed as the first ingredient will probably be your best bet. Just so you know, organic soba does not mean tasty or good soba.

Once you've got your hands on a package of Pure Pleasure, treat it like pasta that cooks super fast. Keep tasting it until it's al dente. Then drain it immediately and rinse it with water until it's as cold as possible. UPDATE: The Black Moon website suggests soaking it in ice water for a few minutes, and I've found that works really well. Now you have various options, but I will give you my two favorites:

1) With Dipping Sauce:

Yamaki brand Soba Tsuyu (straight) is my favorite dipping sauce. The "straight" description means that it's not a concentrated tsuyu, so you don't need to add water before serving. Concentrated tsuyu is more cost-effective than straight, but that doesn't mean it tastes better. Can't tell if your bottle is straight or concentrated? If it's concentrated there is sure to be a chart on the back with numbers or pictures showing the ratio needed of water to concentrated tsuyu. It's probably 2 to 1 or 1 to 1. Don't worry about it, you can add more water to taste. If you want to know what the word "straight" looks like in Japanese, follow the Yamaki link at the beginning of the paragraph and check out the white lettering in the red stripe on the left of the bottle. In fact, you can just print out a picture and take it with you to the Asian market.

Anyway, put the soba into a bowl. Top with various optional condiments like toasted sesame seeds, shredded (kizami) nori (Yamamotoyama is a good brand), sliced scallions, and grated daikon radish (they look like enormous white carrots). Take out a miso-soup size bowl and fill it half-way with soba tsuyu. Stir in some wasabi if you like. Now take your chopsticks and gather up a few strands of the soba. Drop or dip them into the tsuyu, then slurp them into your mouth. CHEW.

2) Dipping sauce is too much trouble? Just top your soba with a ton of sesame seeds and shredded nori and eat it like that.

UPDATE: If you have good soba, the water you boil it in will turn thick and cloudy. Save some of it when you drain the noodles, and when you're done eating the noodles, reheat your soba water and pour it into your bowl of dipping sauce (with all the goodies you added) to make a soup. This soup will be very tasty and nourishing and you will feel good. Japanese people often do this, at least in restaurants.

Mmmm... buckwheaty goodness.

1 comment:

Thursdayyoga.com said...

This was really helpful; I used to buy soba noodles and eat them every night homesick for California and the Asian friends that surrounded me. However, my noodles always came out soggy, so I'm excited to try your tip. Thank you,


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