Tag Archives: japanese

Daring Cooks: Cold Soba Salad 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.

While I am a fan of Japanese cuisine, truthfully, it’s something that has rarely made an appearance in my kitchen. I’ve made sushi before, but that’s about the extent of my experience. However, I was excited about this challenge – tempura is a tricky beast, and I thought this would be a wonderful chance to tackle it. As for cold soba salad – I was game for that! I’ve made soba a few times before, most successfully in a dish called ostu. It’s been a while though, and this was a new recipe, so it was also exciting.

How did I make the tempura gluten-free? This was perhaps one of the easiest adjustments so far with my Daring Cooks’ challenges. The original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of regular flour and 1/2 cup of cornstarch – so I substituted 1/2 cup of sweet white rice flour and 1/2 cup of tapioca starch. It came out beautifully – airy and crisp. We enjoyed sweet potatoes, green beans, and shrimp, dipped in the spicy dipping sauce (made gluten-free easily by substituting gluten-free soy sauce), and there wasn’t a bit left. While I loved this Japanese-style, I can easily imagine taking the tempura batter “process” over to other cuisines (onion rings, anyone?).

The soba salad was also delicious, so much so, I think I enjoyed it even more than the tempura. I served ours with a dashi sauce, green onions, eggs, grated daikon radish, pickled ginger, and some toasted nori. I am having leftovers for lunch today, and am pretty darn excited about it, if I do say so. While finding 100% buckwheat soba isn’t easy (I had to visit Whole Foods – most soba in the American groceries is a blend of wheat and buckwheat flour), I am definitely going to pick up some more when I find it again. I love the nutty, earthy flavor of the noodles.

All in all, another delicious Daring Cooks’ challenge completed! What’s even better – this has inspired me to dig further into Japanese cuisine. I’m overdue for an adventure!

Gluten-Free Tempura

1 egg yolk

1 c iced water

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c tapioca starch

1/2 t baking powder

Oil for deep frying

Ice water bath, for the tempura batter

Very cold vegetables and seafood – you can choose from: blanched and cooled sweet potato slices, green beans, mushrooms, carrots, pumpkin, onions, shrimp, etc.

Place the iced water in 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. 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. 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 flavor. Serve immediately for best flavor.

Gluten-Free Spicy Dipping Sauce

¾ c spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
3 T gluten-free soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
½ t agave nectar
¼ t English mustard powder
1 T grape-seed oil
1 T sesame oil
1/2 t ground  black pepper 

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.

Gluten-Free Soba Salad

2 quarts + 1 c cold water, divided

12 oz 100% buckwheat noodles

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.
  3. 

Mentsuyu – Traditional dipping sauce

2 c 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 c gluten-free soy sauce

1/3 c mirin (sweet rice wine)

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.

I served the soba noodles by placing some cold noodles in a bowl, and ladling some of the sauce over. I topped with crumbled nori, egg omelet strips, grated raw daikon radish, pickled ginger, and some green onions. You can top with any of the following: thin omelet strips, boiled chicken breasts, ham, cucumber, boiled bean sprouts, tomatoes, toasted nori, green onions, wasabi powder, grated daikon, pickled ginger, etc. Everything should be finely grated, diced, or julienned.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Salads, Seafood

Otsu (or Fiery Lemon Ginger Soba Noodles with Shrimp)

food-1446I came across this recipe a few weeks ago, when I first purchased Super Natural Cooking, a wonderful book by Heidi Swanson of www.101cookbooks.com. It looked intriguing. Apparently, this dish comes from a little restaurant near where Heidi lives called Pomelo. I love Asian foods (in case you haven’t already figured that out by my numerous Asian-inspired posts), but this recipe used buckwheat noodles, an ingredient I have seen in other recipes and in stores, but had yet to try for myself. And then, after reading Jaden’s version of the recipe on www.steamykitchen.com, and considering her suggestion to substitute shrimp for the tofu, I decided I was dilly-dallying around for too long, and I made a point to make it this week. And as usual, Heidi didn’t disappoint! I could eat bucketloads of this stuff. Seriously. I had more than my fair share for dinner last night, and I have packed a healthy amount of leftovers for lunch today.  As you’ll see, on a last-minute whim, I added the sliced kumquats, only because I found them at the store that afternoon and had already gotten into them and was inspired. (Couldn’t help myself!) They make a unique contribution to this dish that I really enjoyed.

Have you ever had a kumquat? If not, I highly suggest you try to find some. They are kind of like a Crybaby candy in your mouth. (Remember those?) You bite into them, and at first, they’re sour – like pucker-your-face-up sour. But then, the juicy, citrusy, sweet flesh on the inside gushes over your tongue, and floods your mouth with happy deliciousness! (Okay, so they’re really better than the candy, because they’re not artificial-tasting, but you get my drift.) You can find them in some Asian groceries, or at Whole Foods. I actually found them at Wal-Mart…a place I’m not usually shopping for produce…but there is a Neighborhood Wal-Mart on my way home from work that has a huge amount of Asian produce available. It’s rather unique. So when I happened by the kumquats, I grabbed them.

So, without further adieu, I bring you Ostu, by way of Heidi Swanson and Jaden Hair, originally from Rolf Bachmann who I have decided is a genius to create this dish.

Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 inch section of ginger, peeled and grated
1 T honey
3/4 t cayenne
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/3 c soy sauce
2 T olive oil
2 T toasted sesame oil

12 ounces dried soba noodles
1 T olive oil
8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

¼ c cilantro, chopped

½ cucumber, peeled and seeded, sliced thinly

5 kumquats, sliced thinly
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds

Additional chopped cilantro for garnish

 

To make the dressing, combine the lemon zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce and blend in a food processor or hand blender. Run the blender for a few seconds, until all ingredients are combined. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles until just tender, then drain.

 

While the noodles are cooking, heat up a large frying pan or wok. When hot, pour in the 1 T olive oil. Season the shrimp with a bit of salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the shrimp in a single layer, and cook for 2 minutes. Flip over and cook until just cooked through, about another minute or two. Remove shrimp and set aside.

 

Drain excess oil from pan/wok, remove from heat, and add the soba, cilantro, cucumber, and about ½ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the shrimp and kumquats and toss again, and serve with sesame seeds and cilantro sprinkled on top.

 

Serves 4. Can be served warm or cold.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy