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
For my virgin mission as a member of The Daring Kitchen we were set a challenge in Japanese cuisine: cold soba noodle salad and tempura. Although I’ve worked for a Japanese fusion restaurant here in Sydney, most of my skill-set is rooted in a classical French training so I was terribly excited to get stuck into these recipes !
I really admire the simplicity and freshness of the ingredients used in Japanese cooking – always prepared using pure, uncomplicated cooking methods. I think it is this that makes Japanese food so visually stunning… and has helped it inch its way into a fat-laden, hyper-processed Western world. With all that seaweed, miso, fish and sake; it’s no wonder the Japanese always trump the world in the longevity stakes.
My dear old high school friend Gill came over to my house for a long overdue catch-up lunch yesterday. I feel obligated (out of guilt) to inform you that her name is pronounced as ‘Jill’ and not as a ‘gill’ of the slitted fishy variety. I vaguely remember preferring the latter throughout our school years… She’s vegetarian and so February’s challenge suited us down to a tee.
Over the past five years I’ve been discovering that vegetarian – even vegan – food can be equally as satisfying and nourishing as any meat dish. Although I am not a vego myself, I often find myself craving the lightness and simplicity of meat-free meals. If you need any extra inspiration, be sure to check out Kathy’s blog at Healthy. Happy. Life. for wonderful vegan recipes.
The nuttiness of the soba noodles balanced out delightfully with the delicate edamame beans and the clean flavours of soy, mirin & sesame. Naturally, with something so ridiculously healthy, the tempura vegetables were a nice bit of naughtiness: the kind you can feel good about. Crispy, light as air… it was heaven. I like to use sparkling water in my tempura batter – I find it takes the lightness of the tempura to another level.
Admittedly I chose my two favourite veggies – asparagus and sweet potato – but you can use almost anything that takes your fancy. Mushroom, capsicum, eggplant, potato, shiso leaves, prawns, oysters, crab… go crazy !
sesame soba with edamame/ asparagus and sweet potato tempura
for the soba
- 1 packet (250g) dried soba/ buckwheat noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 purple Asian eschalots, finely diced
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 450g packet of frozen shelled edamame beans (from any Asian grocer) – use fresh if you can get your hands on them !
- 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- toasted sesame seeds or seven-ingredient red pepper powder (nanami/ shichimi tohgarashi)
for the tempura
- 2 bunches/ 18 sticks of asparagus
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into thin slices
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (240 ml) chilled soda water
- ½ cup (70g) plain/ all purpose flour
- ½ cup (70g) cornflour/cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon (2.5g) baking powder
- oil, for deep frying (preferably vegetable)
for the dipping sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- pepper to taste
- Bring 6 cups of water or kombu stock 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 process two more times.
- Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. Drizzle a little olive oil over the noodles to prevent them from sticking.
- In a medium saucepan, cook the eschalots, ginger and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until lightly golden.
- Add the edamame beans and stir to heat through. Add the soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil, remove from heat.
- Toss the soba noodles with the edamame mix and sprinkle the nanami tohgarashi or sesame seeds over the top.
- Heat the oil in a deep-fryer, wok or large heavy-based pan until it reaches 170°C.
- Place the chilled soda water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg and gradually pour into the iced water, blending well.
- Add flours and baking powder all at once and mix lightly 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.
- Coat the vegetables in the tempura batter and gently slide into the hot oil, making sure to do the frying in small batches in order to maintain the correct temperature.
- When batter turns a golden colour, carefully remove the tempura pieces and place on a wire rack in a low oven while you finish frying.
the dipping sauce
- Whisk all the ingredients together. Dig in !