Monday, February 14, 2011

Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

This is my second Daring Cooks Challenge.  We were assigned to make cold soba salad (Soba is a Japanese buckwheat noodle) with tempura (veggies or seafood dipped in a very cold water-flour-cornstarch mixture and deep-fried).

Soba noodles, halfway through eating.  The timing was a little off, so I didn't actually get a picture of both food items together...

I had a hard time finding soba noodles, and I was about to give up on ever finding them, and use some other kind of Asian thin noodle (Ramen, in my case) when I found organic soba noodles at Sunflower Farmer's Market, for $3, of course.

For my soba noodles, I made a yummy sauce that you're supposed to dip them in but which I just poured over the top.  It was really delicious, even if I had to  borrow half the ingredients from Megan :)  I topped it with some sliced avocado, tomato, and authentic omelet strips.  I would definitely eat this meal again - it's delicious, easy, and versatile.

For the tempura vegetables (I was too cheap to buy seafood, duh), I chose sweet potatoes, onions, red bell pepper, and asparagus.  I'm pretty sure none of those are really traditional, but they were all good.

To make sure that the tempura batter-veggie mix was cold enough to get a good crunch when put in the hot oil, I stuck the vegetables in the freezer for a few minutes before cooking.  I'm not sure whether it made a difference, but it made me eat a lot more of them raw, as I am somewhat addicted to frozen veggies.

To cook them, I used a small pot and my new kitchen thermometer!  Thanks Santa.  Here's the setup, after everything was done:

Although the tempura was an adventure, and pretty good, I probably won't make it again.  It's really a hassle if you don't already have a deep-fryer, it's hard to keep the oil at the right temperature, it's super-unhealthy, and the finished product isn't really spectacular. The fact that my recipe didn't have any salt in it might have had something to do with that - I ended up sprinkling it with salt like a crazy-woman, but it just wasn't enough.

Oil.  Yum.
Overall, this foray into Japanese cooking left me open to some new methods but not extremely enthusiastic about the field as a whole.  I don't have enough Asian ingredients, in the first place!  I would recommend you try the soba salad, or at least the sauce with a packet of Ramen, but leave the tempura to restauranteurs.  I think I will leave the recipe off, because it just wasn't great enough that I want to post it!

Cold Soba Salad
Adapted from The Daring Kitchen

Approx. 6 oz. buckwheat soba or other thin Asian noodles, cooked according to package directions and rinsed in cold water

Any of the following toppings, sliced to bite-size:
Thin omelet strips
Bean Sprouts
Toasted nori
Green onions
Wasabi powder
Finely grated daikon
Pickled ginger (Note: do NOT use fresh ginger)

3/8 cup sliced green onion
1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 Tbs. vegetable/canola oil
1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
~1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1 Tbs. water

Put all ingredients but water in a small container and shake to combine.  (Alternatively, whisk in a small bowl.)  Add the water and shake again.  Pour over your cold soba noodles and top with whatever your heart desires.  Mix it all together and devour it with chopsticks.

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,, and

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