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Daring Cooks - Cold Soba & Tempura

Monday, 14 February 2011

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

Hiyashi soba

Hiyashi soba 2

Hiyashi soba is a type of cold noodle salad served during Summer in Japan. It is usually topped with colourful ingredients of all sorts. The best thing about this dish is that you can serve it with anything you like. I wanted something really simple for lunch and was feeling really lazy to julienne so many types of ingredients, so I served it with some pickled daikon, soy sauce seasoned soft-boiled eggs, nori and a simple dipping sauce. The challenge? Noodle preparation.

The most important thing is not to overcook the noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Rinsing the noodles after boiling is also crucial. Soba is packed with starch on them, so it needs to be rinsed off after cooking. After boiling, just rinse it vigorously under cold water to stop the cooking process and to rinse off the excess starch. If you are not serving it straightaway, place the rinsed soba in a bowl of cold water. This can be kept in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh.

Hiyashi soba
  • 2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
  • 12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Dipping sauce:
  • 1/3 cup Japanese light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp Hon-dashi seafood flavour seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 stalk spring onion - sliced
  • Japanese furikake (Rice seasonings)
  • Pickled daikon - julienned
  • Nori (Japanese seaweed) - thinly sliced
  • Ajitsuke tamago (flavoured egg)
  • Wasabi

For soba:
  • 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.
  • 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.
Dipping sauce:
  • Just mix all ingredients for dipping sauce in a container. Stir/ shake to dissolve the Hon-dashi powder.
To serve:
  • Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl.
  • Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori.
  • In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each.
  • In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, pickled daikon, and green onions.
  • The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!

The second part of the challenge is tempura, which is vegetables and seafood that has been battered and deep fried. This for me was the biggest challenge. I hate deep frying. The secret to light and crispy batter is using fresh ingredients, ice-cold water and minimal beating. Prepare the batter just before deep frying and avoid over-mixing, lumpy batter is fine. Over-mixing the batter will result in the activation of wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become chewy and dough-like when fried. Using ice cold water minimises oil absorption, so the batter is often kept cold by adding ice, or by placing the bowl inside a larger bowl with ice in it. Regulating the oil temperature is also important. Should the oil temperature drop below 340° F/170° C, the tempura will most likely end up greasy and soft. If you follow ALL the steps above religiously, you will end up with light and crispy tempura. I added some Hon-dashi powder into the batter mixture for some extra flavouring.

  • Vegetables or seafood of your choice (I used carrots, oyster mushrooms and prawns)
For batter:
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Hon-dashi powder

  • Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well.
  • Add flours, salt and Hon dashi, 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, 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 the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

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