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 .
I, being the wife of a Portuguese man and someone who will be emigrating to Portugal, was pretty thrilled to hear we were going to be making tempura as part of our Daring Cook's Challenge this month. Now you may be wondering why a woman whom has ties to Portugal would be interested in a commonly known to be Japanese dish.
Well... it may interest you to know that the Portuguese were the ones who introduced tempura to the Japanese way back in the 1500s when they landed in Japan along with establishing trade routes and bringing Catholicism. The battered seafood and vegetable dish was apparently loved so much by Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, that he died after eating too much tempura. I don't know if this is true as I think one would pass out before they could that!
For those that don't know much about what tempura is, it's a light batter that usually coats vegetables and seafood then fried. This in itself is fairly filling, but we were to accompany our tempura with a cold soba noodle salad. Soba noodles are thin Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour. They can be served cold as a type of salad or used in a hot soup.
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.
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
1. 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.
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.
- Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.
The recipes above are straight from The Daring Kitchen post for this month's challenge. If you would like to check out what the others have done and the recipes please go to The Daring Kitchen website!
I'm sure anyone who knows more about soba noodles than I do can probably tell just from the photos that these aren't buckwheat soba noodles. I of course per usual, couldn't find soba noodles in my little town (maybe when we move I'll have a better selection!). They didn't even have rice noodles this time around and all I could get my hands on were a package of ramen type noodles. They are quick to cook so I had to watch them a little more closely than most noodles to keep them from overcooking.
As a topping I used a little bit of crushed dried seaweed, black sesame seeds, sliced green onions and thin slices of cucumber (using the long/wide grate on a grater works very well to accomplish this). I also used some homemade pickled ginger (recipe to come later)!
For the tempura, I used sliced portobello mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper and shrimp.
The noodles took probably 20 minutes in total with cooking and a few rinses of cold water to cool them down and a few minutes in the refrigerator. The tempura on the other hand took forever. I think that's because I made a LOT of tempura veggies for the 3 of us (had enough to have left overs the next day).
The noodle salad was refreshing next to the heavier, but not too heavy, tempura. This made for a satisfying but not overly heavy meal that with enough practice could be turned into a fairly quick and healthy meal!
As a side note to those who saw my notice back at the beginning of the year: I've run into a few snags while making a new design for Acquired Taste. I tried to make a template from scratch for blogger, but it just didn't work out the way I wanted. I have since decided to move to wordpress and am working on making a template from scratch over there. In the process, I'm having to learn quite a bit and my brain has been threatening to go on strike every couple of days!
I've changed my deadline (which I obviously passed previously when I tried to get it done shortly after the new year) to the beginning of MY new year (aka my birthday) at the beginning of April. I don't think I'll need that long to get it up and running, but better safe than sorry (which I've been a few times over since starting this new endeavor)! This also gives me some leeway when it comes to getting things ready for the moms( the hubby's and mine) coming to visit just before we move to Portugal.
I thank all of you for coming back to check and all the patience you've had while waiting on me :)!!