Kurumi Soba, Cold Soba Noodles with Sweet Walnut Dipping Sauce
Recipe reprinted with permission from, Let’s Cook Japanese Food! Everyday recipes for authentic dishes (Weldon Owen, March 2017) by Amy Kaneko
Makes 2 servings
1 1/ 4 cups dashi or water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 cup walnuts
2 teaspoons sugar, plus more to taste
1 package (14 ounces) dried soba noodles
Wasabi for serving (optional)
4 green onions, including tender green tops, minced
1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the dashi. Add the soy sauce and mirin, stir until dissolved, remove from the heat, and let the tsuyu sauce cool.
2. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
3. In a small, dry frying pan over medium-high heat, toast the walnuts, shaking the pan to prevent scorching, until fragrant and the nuts have taken on a little color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Place the toasted walnuts in a zippered plastic bag, force out the air, and seal closed. Using a meat pounder or the bottom of a large can, crush the nuts until the size of peas. Transfer the crushed nuts to a suribachi (see page 12) or a mortar and grind finely.
4. Add 2 teaspoons sugar and grind the sugar into the walnuts. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Add up to 3 tablespoons of the tsuyu, reserving the remaining sauce for serving, and grind or mix until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is a thick paste. Set aside.
5. Have ready a large bowl of ice water. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the soba and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and immediately transfer them to the ice water. Using your hands, swish the noodles to cool them quickly. When cool, drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
6. To serve, place about 2 tablespoons of the walnut paste in each of 2 dipping bowls, add some of the reserved tsuyu and the wasabi (if using), and mix until well combined. Then stir in the green onions. To eat, pick up a biteful of the soba with chopsticks, drop it into the dipping sauce, then pick up and eat the soba directly from the dipping bowl.
*Recipe Notes: Soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour and have a firm texture and a slightly nutty flavor, are available in many different varieties in Japan. The most common type, which is a pale brown, is made with buckwheat and wheat flours, but some versions incorporate mountain yam, green tea, or other ingredients into the dough. Most of the soba noodles sold in the United States are made from a mix of buckwheat and wheat flours, and the most important thing to remember when boiling them is not to overcook them. They must never be mushy, especially when used in cold noodle dishes. In Japan, the water in which soba is cooked is thought to be full of vitamins and is thus drunk at the end of the meal, mixed with any leftover dipping sauce.
Hot soba variations: To make tempura soba, combine ½ cup soy sauce, ½ cup mirin, and 4 cups dashi or reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken broth in a saucepan to make the tsuyu broth and bring just to a boil. Follow the directions for cooking and draining (but not cooling) the soba and then divide between 2 large soup bowls. Ladle in the hot broth and top with Yasai to Ebi Tempura (page 49).
To make Tsukimi soba, make the tsuyu broth as directed and bring just to a boil. Follow the directions for cooking and draining (but not cooling) the soba and then divide between 2 large soup bowls. Ladle in the hot broth. Crack an egg into each bowl. The hot broth will partially cook the eggs (see note page 141). Garnish with green onions.