Monday, January 10, 2011

THE DARING COOKS’ FEBRUARY 2011 CHALLENGE: HIYASHI SOBA AND TEMPURA



This month brought new meaning to the word 'challange'. We've had flooding, power outages, a cyclone and empty supermarket shelves. All of which made me dish a little simpler then I had planned, but just as tasty. It's been amazing watching everyones dishes, and I'm glad for the most part, all my fellow daring cooks, enjoyed trying a new dish.


Happy New Years Daring Cooks! I’m Lisa from Blueberry Girl and I am delighted to be hosting the February Challenge.

It took me forever to decide on what dish to choose. My nearest and dearest kept urging me to choose something that reflected my background and influences, but that was the problem. I’m what’s known as a ‘Third-Culture-Kid’. I was born in Malaysia, grew up half in Australia with a foster family who introduced me to Indian food, and my Mum with a Scottish/ English background and half with my Dad in Japan. Throw in teenage years in South America, and my ‘background’ was becoming very confused. So I’ve chosen a dish that brings back memories of summer afternoons in Japan, a dish I love. It’s simple, flavorful with endless varieties, its fun, its food to share, and it’s a little bit from everywhere.

Your best preparation for this challenge is to watch this very entertaining video

Soba is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn

Hiyashi Soba is a popular dish in summer. It's like a noodle salad. Restaurants in Japan serve hiyashi soba only in summer. Even if you don't have much appetite because of the heat, hiyashi soba can be appetizing. Common hiyashi soba toppings are omelette strips, ham, cucumber and grated dikon. You can also have the noodles just with the dipping sauce.

Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. A light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light and soft wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added.


Recipe Source: I’ve had many different versions of this dish so I’ve combined a few different recipes from around the WWW. Most notably: http://japanesefood.about.com, http://www.justhungry.coml, http://www.pinkbites.com, http://itsybitsyfoodies.com/ and my Japanese Stepmother.

Blog-checking lines: [To be provided by Lis/Ivonne every month.]

Posting Date: [February 14, 2011]

Note: The most important thing is not to over cook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared before hand, so don’t rush.

Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches using chopsticks for only a few seconds, leaving lumps in the mixture that, along with the cold batter temperature, result in the unique fluffy and crisp tempura structure when cooked. The batter is often kept cold by adding ice, or by placing the bowl inside a larger bowl with ice in it. Over-mixing the batter will result in activation of wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become chewy and dough-like when fried.


Mandatory Items:

As long as some form of Tempura and a cold noodle salad is made feel free to shine. Please respect Japanese cooking/eating by keeping your food, clean, fresh and simple. If anyone wants to be especially challenged feel free to make your own noodles.


Variations allowed: The great thing about this dish is it allows for so many variations. Vegans and Vegetarians just omit any of the meat toppings and let the vegetables shine. Gluten free cooks, if you can get traditional Soba noodles they should be wheat free. If not here is a great link to make your own. The Tempura works great with a standard gluten free flour, if you’re making your own, aim for the lightest possibly flour (ie: corn flour).


Preparation time:

Soba
10 Minutes for the sauce
10 Minutes for the noodles
30 Minutes for Vegetable Preparation
5 Minutes to Serve

Depending on you, I can make this meal, from walking in the door after work to sitting down to eat in under 30 minutes, so it should be pretty quick.

Tempura
20 minutes vegetable preparation
10 minutes making the batter
30 minutes frying time

Again it depends how much your making and what equipment your using.

Equipment required:
• A Saucepan
• A colander
• A large Bowl
• A Knife
• A chopping Board
• A Deep pan for frying
• Small tongs or Chopsticks
• Wire rack for draining





Hiyashi Soba

Recipe from japanesefood.about.com and globetrotterdiaries

Mentsuyu (Traditional Dipping Sauce)

Ingredients
2 cups konbu and katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Click here for how.)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin

Directions:

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

70g/2½oz spring onion finely chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon English mustard powder
1 tablespoon grape-seed oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Shake all the ingredients together in a jam jar. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.

Cooking the Soba Noodles

Boil water in a large pot. Add dried soba noodles in the boiling water, gently stirring noodles with chopsticks. Turn down the heat to medium. Boil soba noodles, following the package instructions. It usually takes a couple minutes to boil soba. If it's necessary, add a little bit of cold water in the pot to prevent overflowing. Drain soba and cool the noodles in cold water. Gently wash noodles with hands under running water until the noodles have cooled, drain well place in a bowl of cold water and ice standing and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:

Thin omelette strips
Ham
Boiled chicken breasts
Cucumber
Boiled bean sprouts
Tomatoes
Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
Green onions
Wasabi powder
Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)
Beni shoga (Pickled Ginger)

All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.

Serving

Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each with 1/4 of the nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.

The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!


Tempura:

Recipe from pinkbites and itsybitsyfoodies

Ingredients
1 egg yolk
1 cup iced water
half a cup of plain flour
half a cup of cornflour
½ teaspoon baking powder

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 capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm-wide strips
Assorted mushrooms
Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
Onions sliced




Directions:

Lightly beat the egg yolk and pour in iced water gradually in a mixing bowl, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flour 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 helps create a crispy tempura.

Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320 degrees; for seafood it should be 340 degrees. 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 odour 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.
The Tempura is finished when the outside is light brown and crispy.




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.





Additional Information:

Great instructions on preparing the noodles
http://www.justhungry.com/basics-cold-soba-noodles-dipping-sauce

How to make Tempura Soba
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RD6Ut0JTZhs

Tempura
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempura

Someone who did it well
http://globetrotterdiaries.com/recipes/zaru-soba-cold-soba-noodles-eating-japan

A collection of videos on how to prepare the vegetables for Tempura
http://www.ehow.com/video_2298709_ingredients-japanese-vegetable-tempura.html

Disclaimer:

*Note: The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of gluten-free ingredients. If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it. If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. Please consult your physician with any questions before using a product you are not familiar with. Thank you! :)