New Japanese Market and Soba Recipe

This week has been absolutely crazy for me. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Have you guys been busy, too? I’m still getting the hang of WordPress after not using it for several years, so there’s some definite disorganization with the design.

So before we get started, Plano is getting its own Mitsuwa Marketplace. This is like the grand-daddy of all Japanese markets. We’re getting a freakin’ Ramen Santouka inside it, as well, which I’m super excited about.

Speaking of noodles, I owe you a soba recipe. But let’s talk about the noodle, first. I know what you’re thinking: This is a health blog, not a Japanese food blog, what’s this one going on about? When soba noodles were introduced in the Edo period (which lasted from 1603 to 1868), there was a sophisticated process to eating them. They were served cold, and from there you would have either a sauce or broth to dip them into. Slurping the noodles was, and still is, very necessary. Because the noodles are made out of buckwheat, they aroma is better taken in when slurping. Yes, this does affect the taste, and it is phenomenal.

I sincerely believe that creating and eating a meal should be an event, and there are a lot of Japanese foods that are labors of love. True, we don’t always have time to cook for hours on end, and there’s no shame in grabbing a snack when you’re on the run. But there’s something special about creating a beautiful meal. There’s a little something silly I made up called the three P’s: preparation, presentation, and process. Take your time making your food. Put love into your preparation, and make it a work of art. It makes it special, it feels rewarding, and it’s good for the soul as well as the body. Appreciate your food.

On to the recipe. Now, you don’t have to follow this step for step. Experiment with your ingredients, use what you like to eat, and have fun.

This is a different version of Hiyashi Chuka, which is often called ‘cold ramen’. I prefer to use soba noodles with this simply because I like the taste of them with the other ingredients. I recommend you eat this on a hot day.

You’re going to need…

+1 serving of soba noodles, dried (if you can make your own or find fresh, you may also use that)
+1/2 cucumber
+1 roma tomato, or between 4-5 cherry tomatoes
+chilled egg dish (keep reading to learn options)
+sliced green onion to taste
+two separate bowls of ice water for preparation

That’s for the main dish. There are such a variety of sauces you can use, and you can even make your own, but I just like using a little bit of soy sauce to give it a salty savoriness. Sesame sauce is very popular with dishes like these.

The first thing you’re going to do is prep your ingredients. Don’t cook the noodles yet. Dried soba noodles tend to cook fast, especially if they’re thin. The brand I use cooked in about two minutes, but the recommended time on the package is four.

The egg dish can really be a variety of things. You can make an omelet or a sweet omelet, you can boil an egg with or without a marinade, or make what is called a shredded egg sheet which is where an egg is mixed and fried into a very thin sheet, then layered and cut into pencil-thin strips. I made a boiled, soy-marinated egg.

Boil an egg between 5 and 8 minutes, which will make it softer and better suited for absorption. After you take it out of the pot, immediately place it into ice water. Wait until it has cooled completely, then peel the shell off and put it into a plastic bag. Pour in your marinade, which can be anything you like. Again, I prefer to use just soy sauce but you can toss in garlic, onion, or anything to create a bit more depth. If you want a spicy egg, I would stay away from hot sauces. Nearly all hot sauces have vinegar in them, which can sometimes make the egg have a really weird texture. If you absolutely MUST have a hot sauce-infused egg, don’t marinate it for very long.

If you’re marinating your egg, you can let it sit for 30 minutes, an hour, or even longer depending on how saturated you want the egg to be. Just make sure it stays in the fridge during the process. After it’s done, cut it appropriately and set it to the side until it’s time to assemble.

That’s the most complicated thing about this dish. From here, it’s just prepping vegetables and boiling noodles.

Slice the cucumber in half long-ways, then chop down so that your final product looks like half-moons. If you like tart foods, you can toss it with a little salt and vinegar, but I prefer to eat it as-is. Then, cut your tomato in half long-ways. I like thicker slabs of tomato, so I cut each half into thirds, but they can be cut into fourths for thinner slices. The final veggie prep you should have is dicing your green onions. Cut as many or as little as you like, but I would recommend cutting them as thin as possible. It’s very pretty, like little blades of grass.

If you’re a meat eater, then you can toss on ham cubes or sliced fake crab (which is essentially a fish cake). Both are very popular and go well with this dish.

Boil your noodles as instructed, then drain them in a mesh strainer. After, place them gently into the other bowl of ice water. It won’t take very long to cool the noodles, and after they’re chilled pour them back into the strainer and tap off the water.

Now comes the fun part: Assembly. Taking a plate (which can be room temperature or chilled), place the noodles on the bottom. From there, it’s fair game. You can scatter the ingredients to make a fun, almost whimsical presentation, or you can place them neatly in their own piles. I prefer to do the latter, then sprinkle the green onion on top. Make it look pretty!

And there you have it, a simple dish for the summer. Pour on the sauce as needed.

If you want to make a hot dish with soba, beware of the soup. Soba noodles don’t have the density of udon or ramen, and can become soggy if the soup isn’t eaten quickly. They’re great in a salty miso broth, but just make sure you eat it as soon as it’s done.

Enjoy!

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