Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Shrimp and Veggie Tempura - A Daring Cook's Challenge

Soba noodles and 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 .

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.

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Soba Noodles:
Ingredients
2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Directions:
Cooking the noodles:
  1. 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.
  2. 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:

Ingredients
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

Directions:
  1. 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:

Ingredients
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

Directions:
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.

Tempura:

Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies
Serves 4


Ingredients
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
Directions:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.
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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.

Tempura Vegetables 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!



Soba noodles and Tempura


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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 :)!!

22 comments:

Renata said...

You did a great job on the challenge! Everything looks delicious and very beautiful!

Audax said...

WOWOWOWOWOW that mosaic of three tempuras is stunning you take very good photographs excellent. I'm so glad that it worked for you so well great job.


Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

shelley c. said...

I did not know of the Portugese origins of tempura - very cool! Your photos are fantastic, and your soba salad and tempura look delicious. Awesome!!

Mary said...

Your photos are beautiful, and the noodles topped with cucumber looks really refreshing. I can totally understand that guy dying after eating too much tempura--that's how I felt yesterday!
I'm curious now which small town in Ontario you live in--I'm in Ottawa, which is a big small town. Best of luck with the move to Portugal--how exciting!
:)

lois said...

wow, your tempura looks stunning! And the shrimps were the tastiest stuff, weren't they! Congrats from Salted Lemons :-)

Gillian said...

Wonderful photographs well done

chef_d said...

Your pictures are so gorgeous! I love your version of soba salad with ramen noodles, looks super yummy! And the tempuras turned out perfect! Great job!

Sarah said...

Good luck with your big move! I love the cucumber threads on top of the soba. Your presentation is lovely.

climbhighak said...

Wonderfully done. I like how you dressed you noodles.

I switched from Blogger to WP almost two years ago and have been very happy. I hope your transition goes well too.

penny aka jeroxie said...

I love soba noodles and your tempura is just awesome!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I did not know that about tempura - you learn something new every day! I love the thin, crispy batter you got on your tempura and your noodles look gorgeous too! Good luck with WP - you won't regret it at all!!

Dionne Baldwin said...

Your photos are gorgeous. I absolutely love tempura and I did not know about the role the the Portuguese played in introducing tempura! I've seen some good things come from chefs (such as yourself) who take part in the Daring Kitchen. Nicely done!

Congrats and good luck on your move.

LittleRed said...

Very nice photos! Your challenge turned out beautifully:)

ck said...

Your photos are gorgeous. You chose great foods to tempura, I wish I had done portobello mushrooms. You sound like a very busy lady - good luck with all that you have on your plate (so to speak!).

Susi said...

You've done a marvelous job with this challenge and your pictures are stunning! Well done :o)

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Your tempura looks so drool-worthy. Great job!

Chef Dennis said...

wow, what an outstanding job on the challenge! I absolutely love those tempura veggies and shrimp and the dipping sauces are a great accompaniment!
cheers
Dennis

January said...

awesome post. looks like you got your hands full doing this, i don't know if my cooking powers can help me make soba as delicious as yours. you really did a great job on the challenge!

5 Star Foodie said...

Your tempura looks so perfect and the cold soba noodle salad is so light and refreshing!

Mother Rimmy said...

Absolutely beautiful pictures. I'm so impressed!

Stephanie said...

This looks fantastic! Your photos are beautiful. I had no idea that the Portuguese introduced tempura to the Japanese. How interesting!

The Duo Dishes said...

Great story behind the history of tempura. That is definitely news! What great pictures, and no doubt the final product was a delicious meal. It's also fantastic that you'll be moving to Portugal! What fun!

 

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