I’m really just happy to have made it through this one alive! Funny how it sounded so easy at first…
This month’s Daring Kitchen post includes a serious of HILARIOUS (sarcastic) errors by yours truly. Somehow, we still ended up being able to eat most of what was prepared.
Let’s start with the first part of the challenge – soba noodle salad. I make soba noodle salad all the time, I’ve been making it for years, and I totally adore it. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, which is very strong tasting – almost bitter – and is often touted as being healthy. In fact, you can find soba noodles in many health food stores, because people will eat them for their health benefits.
I just like how they taste.
Soba salad is a refreshing and healthy dish that usually involves a fairly light dressing or dipping sauce made of soy, mirin and other yummy things, and is topped with fresh ingredients like green onion, avocado, enoki mushrooms. It’s one of my favourite salads to eat in the summer.
So how did I manage to screw it up?
I decided that the base challenge wasn’t challenging enough for me. I got really excited when I saw the suggestion to make your own noodles. I thought that would be a great idea – I’ve made my own pasta before, and was pretty confident that I could make my own soba.
… and that’s just what I did!
It’s what I did afterward that ruined things. Let’s preface this by saying it was a REALLY cold weekend, and I was not in the mood for a salad. I had spent all day making the noodles, and I wanted something warm and comforting. Thinking it was safe to leave the noodles out to dry, because they didn’t contain any egg, I proceeded to layer noodles and cloth in a plastic container and I left them there. For about a week. With no inclination to check on them. Until it was too late.
All but the top layer of noodles got fuzzy. Not cute fuzzy, but gross fuzzy.
We ventured out to get some store-bought soba noodles, managed to save the day, and had a delicious soba noodle salad for dinner.
In my second adventure, I tried my hand at making tempura vegetables. My favourites are sweet potato and eggplant, so that’s what I made. This time around, I decided to screw up one of the ingredients – the recipe called for egg yolk, and I put in the egg white.
I didn’t clue in until we were nearly done eating.
We were discussing how they tasted good, but not quite like “real tempura”. We pondered the ingredient list and J thought that it was strange how few ingredients there were. I had seen recipes for tempura batter before, and knew that they had very few ingredients. Then I had a forehead-smacking moment when I realized that the recipe had called for the egg YOLK, not WHITE. Yarg!
Still, they were tasty. I’m going to pretend that I did it on purpose to make a “light” version. (Suuuure…)
It just goes to show that I need to pay more attention to paying attention sometimes. It may not be baking, but sometimes I need to follow the instructions.
I hope you enjoyed my little adventure. It wasn’t a failure, and I had some good learning moments.
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, pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies.
Soba Noodle Salad
- soba noodles
- 1 cup shelled edamame, steamed or lightly boiled and cooled
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 1/2 cup sliced green onion (green part only)
- appx 5 baby bok choi, leaves separated, lightly steamed
- 1 avocado, sliced
- enoki mushrooms
- sesame seeds
Dressing / Dipping Sauce:
Combine the following ingredients in a bowl. I like to make this in a large glass measuring cup with a pour spout.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice wine) (substitutions: apple juice, sake)
- 1 teaspoon Nanami Togarashi (or, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds) (optional)
- Prepare dressing/dipping sauce and set aside.
- Cook soba noodles in boiling water for 3 – 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain immediately and submerge in cold water to stop cooking. Drain well and set aside.
- The remaining ingredients are optional toppings that I chose this time. Some of the other items I like to add include pickled ginger, cucumber, grated daikon and wasabi.The key is to pick ingredients that are fresh, and don’t overpower each other. They don’t have to be traditional Japanese ingredients to retain the spirit of the dish.
- To prepare the bok choi leaves, I lightly steamed them and tossed them in some of the dressing and let them cool.
- To prepare the edamame, I just lightly steamed them and let them cool. If you buy them still in the pods, you can choose whether to shell them or leave the pods whole (making sure not to actually eat the pods…).
- You can decide whether you prefer to toss the soba with the dressing, or leave it on the side as a dipping sauce. I prefer to dress the noodles, because I make too much of a mess with the dipping sauce :). When dressing, add a little at a time until the noodles are just barely coated. You don’t want it to end up soupy… Dress the noodles just prior to serving.
- Assembly: Place a small pile of noodles on the plate/bowl. Top with your choice of toppings. It’s fun to add sections with different toppings, like having a small pile of grated carrot in one corner, with a few fanned out pieces of avocado in another corner. Have fun with it, and make it look pretty!!
- Top with a few green onions and a sprinkle of sesame seeds… and maybe a little more Nanami Togarashi or cayenne for some extra spice!
- 1 egg yolk from a large egg
- 1 cup iced water
- ½ cup all purpose flour, plus extra for dredging
- ½ cup corn starch
- ½ teaspoon 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 of your choice such as:
- Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced
- Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
- Green beans, trimmed
- Green bell pepper, 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 and the vegetables 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. 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 flavour.
- Serve immediately.