Most of the time I think it's great when Daring Cooks has us make things that I'm not normally inclined to make. And then there are the times when I think, 'I knew there was a reason I never ever wanted to make that.'
Like tempura, for example. Every time I see the Iron Chefs make it on TV, I think, 'Wow, that's one thing I don't ever ever want to cook at home.' Plus, I've never met a tempura I've liked. They consistently ruin any sushi dish they come in contact with, and outside of a sushi roll, I've still never liked the particular greasiness of tempura-fried anything.
I do of course realize that I've probably never had really good tempura, so I haven't written it off completely, but I knew that the tempura to change my mind was not going to come out of my kitchen. And sure enough, mine was greasy, mealy, and gross. So there will not be a recipe for tempura in this post. There will, however be a recipe for soba noodles, which was the second part of this challenge.
The challenge recipe suggested that we make plain soba noodles, top them with some garnishes, and serve them with a dipping sauce on the side. Now, I realize that this is a very traditional way to serve soba noodles, but the idea of trying to dip long, stringy noodles into a very thin, watery, and mostly soy-based sauce sounded unappealing, partially because I didn't feel like ruining a shirt.
However, the challenge said that we could use a different soba noodle recipe as long as we attempted to stay true to the spirit of Japanese cooking and keep it clean, fresh, and simple. I liked the looks of this Nigella Lawson recipe, and thought that it fit the criteria.
Sure enough, it's very addictive, insanely simple to make, and it keeps extremely well. I'll likely make it again so that when I'm at work and I have to shove some food in my mouth at 3 a.m., I can just pull these noodles out of the fridge; no re-heating required.
You could keep these noodles simple, or you could garnish them with any number of things, including strips of egg, tofu, or thinly sliced red peppers, carrots, cucumbers, or cabbage. Simple or embellished, they're a delicious meal.
Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
(Slightly Adapted from a Recipe by Nigella Lawson)
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they look golden brown, and tip them into a bowl. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt. Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 6 minutes (or according to packet instructions) until they are tender but not mushy. Have a bowl of iced water waiting to plunge them into after draining.
In the bowl you are going to serve them in, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil. Then finely slice the spring onions and put them into the bowl with the cooled, drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding the sesame seeds and tossing again.
Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce, honey, or sesame oil as needed. I found that I needed more of everything, but it's up to you. Leave the sesame seed noodles for about half an hour to let the flavours develop, although this is not absolutely necessary or sometimes even possible.