A chilled reprieve: Zaru Soba

soba

It’s been a hot week. Sticky hot. The kind of hot where a walk down the block leaves your skin glistening, heart working a little overtime, and feet feeling a couple beats heavier. But it’s also been the last week of August and where we are, that may signal (possibly) the last of our summer. I really hope not. Some may call it denial, I like thinking of it as a hopeful optimism. So in anticipation of a little more summer spilling over into the September we kick off today, I’m posting on Zaru Soba: chilled buckwheat noodles. The perfect meal to satiate the lesser appetite that often comes with a stifling heat that also offers a little reprieve. Best part, it’s very fast and easy to make.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 200 to 250g of dried soba noodles (1/2 of a larger 500g package)
  • 1/2 cup of mentsuyu (you can purchase this in a ready-made bottle, or make your own homemade version – I’ll be posting the recipe up tomorrow.)
  • 1/3 cup of seaweed, shredded (about one sheet of nori sliced up)
  • 1-2 green onions, finely chopped (also called scallions)
  • wasabi
  • 2 teaspoons of white or black sesame seeds (optional)

Preparation:

1. Bring a pot of water to boil on high heat and add your soba noodles. Do not add salt to the water. Stir the noodles occasionally so they don’t stick together and submerge in the water. Cover the pot, leaving a gap for the steam to escape, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Follow the instructions on the package to see how long your noodles should be left in the boiling water. Usually, it will be three to four minutes. You can also check the old fashioned way, which is just to try a piece of noodle for the texture like you would with pasta.

2. Turn off the heat and pour your noodles into a strainer under cold water. Wash it gently to remove the starch.

3. Plunge the noodles into a large bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes in it. Let it rest for a few moments. You can start preparing the sauce and other toppings.

4. For the mentsuyu, if you are making the homemade version, place it in the fridge to cool once you’ve made it. You can cut it with about 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of water, depending on how strong you’d like it to taste. For the store-bought bottles, either consult the bottle to see if it’s a concentrate form that needs to be cut with water or if it’s straight. If it isn’t noted, give it a taste to see how much you’d like to dilute it. Bottles will vary depending on their make. Divide your mentsuyu out into serving bowls.

5. Strain the noodles well. If you have one, you can serve them on a bamboo sushi mat or a thatched bamboo woven bowl so any remaining water will drain.

The way you eat the noodles is straight from your dipping bowl of mentsuyu. Simply take some of the noodles and place them into your dipping bowl, add a dab of wasabi and some of the seaweed, green onions, and if you wish, sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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