There’s nothing like the light, crispy crunch of a perfect tempura batter, plus some awesome caramelized vegetable soba noodles! Japan or bust!
I love just about every international cuisine out there. I say just about, because there are some I’ve never tried, like Ethiopian, Indo Chinese and Congolese, for example. Of course there are what I call ‘International American’ because it’s common American eats even though its origins lie in the country it’s from (unlike”so-called Chinese” Chow Fun (Chow Mei Fun), Chow Mein, Chop Suey (Chop Sooy) etc) all three of which originated in America).
One of those international cuisines is Japanese, obviously sushi, but so so much more, from Katsu Don (chicken) to Nikujaga (stew) to Tonkatsu (pork), to my all time favorite, or let’s say must always order with the aforementioned other favorites aka tempura anything. I also love all kinds of Asian noodles and noodle bowls, so this month’s challenge is manna extraordinaire, and boy am I going to eat goooood.
To make the above noodle dish, toss cooked soba noodles with dressing from soba noodle-vegetable saute recipe, below. Top with a sliced medium, soft-boiled egg or tempura egg, sliced roasted red pepper and diced ham. pancetta or prosciutto.
Fast forward two weeks. I’m sick, so I’m not going to eat good. In fact, I made everything two days ago, and I still haven’t touched it. I was queasy photographing it all, so queasy that I couldn’t even get my post up because it would mean I have to look at it all again. What started as a simple cold, has morphed into aches, pains, nausea, sore throat, and of course, the stuffy nose, turning my bedroom into a balled up kleenex ticker tape parade aftermath. I just inserted this paragraph so you’d all understand why it took me three days past reveal day to get this post up. Now I have to take a deep breath and try not to gag as I upload the photos. I’m ticked off, I was really looking forward to eating this. OK, back to me before I was sick, below.
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 japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com
The only problem I have with this month’s challenge is the ‘cold’ factor for the noodles. I’m sorry, but we’ve been blasted with freezing cold weather and storm after storm, from snow to heavy rain, to freezing rain to sleet. I don’t want cold noodles, I need some serious warmth. This is why I decided to go against the challenge grain a bit and make myself a nice bowl of spicy, warm soba noodles, along with my spicy, warm tempura.
Wow, I’m already feeling toasty.
Tempura poached egg preparation: After all of the above; the egg is then deep-fried (20 seconds at 375°F), but as most of you know, I can’t give you deep frying photos because my kitchen has no windows outside of a tiny one on the door.
First let me start with the tempura. I decided to tempura batter what I order all the time. My favorite tempura is sweet potato, broccoli, sweet onion, and asparagus. I also decided to tempura batter a few poached eggs.
Yes, you can bread or batter a poached egg (or soft-boiled egg) and deep fry it. I’m sure some think that there’s no way the hot oil won’t cook the yolk. Two words, twenty seconds; that’s all it takes. Of course you have to take great care in flouring and dipping the egg in the tempura batter. In other words, don’t use chopsticks to hold it; a slotted spoon is perfect. I always wondered why those pubs that claim they can and will deep fry anything, have yet to attempt a poached egg. Then again, maybe they have, but I’m always hoping to see it when I see them on TV deep frying candy bars and sneakers.
SO, here’s another great thing about my tempura battered poached egg; Shichimi Togarashi. I LOVE this spice so much. I used it back in ’08 in the Lavash cracker challenge (the same night I took a flying leap and annihilated my knee), and even made my own.
Shichimi Togarashi is 7-spice blend that usually includes red chile pepper, dried orange peel, white and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, nori, and ginger. However, sometimes poppy seed …wait, you can read about it HERE, and if you’d like, purchase it HERE. You can also make your own, swapping in and out what you prefer.
This was a deep fried pancetta bowl holding the noodles and egg. It busted open just as I was about to snap the photo. Figures.
With that said, I added a whole tablespoon of shichimi into the tempura batter for the poached eggs. Yes, I made two batters, because I ended up using up my first batch (which was already doubled) on enough of the aforementioned veggies to feed a small country. It would have been well worth it if I had been able to like..umm..eat some of it without the building nausea wave ready to knock me off my surfboard.
Before I get to the soba, I have to mention that the tempura batter recipe provided to us by our lovely hostess is really good. However, I prefer my old standby of rice flour and seltzer or beer because it stays crispier longer.
So here’s how I treated my soba noodles: I didn’t make the dashi dipping sauce (errr, soup. I’m sorry, it’s a broth, not a dipping sauce), but instead I chose the spicy dipping sauce and used that to not only dip the tempura, but dress my noodles. I added a bit of chili-garlic sauce to it because calling it spicy as is, is akin to calling a box turtle, fierce. I topped it with sauteed red bell peppers, carrots, sesame oil fried spinach, green onions, plus shredded cucumber and deep-fried pancetta.
You see, since I was topping some of the noodles with a poached egg, Eggs Benedict came to mind, so why not a little eggs Benedict fusion? It just seemed naked without some kind of pork product. I actually tried to make a cup out of the pancetta to hold the soba and the poached egg, but unfortunately, my noodles busted it open and it broke, as you can see in the photos above.
Of course everyone had their choice how to have their soba, so only a poached egg and pancetta on request. It was just as yummy with just veggies, as you can see directly above.
For the recipes for tempura and soba, plus fantastic instructions and links, click HERE.
Warm Soba Noodle Vegetable Saute
One 8-ounce package soba (buckwheat noodles) or any noodles you prefer
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced very thin
|2 carrots, cut into 1 1/2-by 1/4-inch sticks (julienned)
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons grated or finely chopped ginger
1 bunch of regular or baby spinach, thoroughly washed and dried
If making cold soba noodles, instead of a warm saute, just slightly steam the vegetables, then cool and add some peeled, seeded and shredded cucumber. Keep chilled until ready to serve. Also, if making it cold, sometimes I also like to add crab, then mayo to the below dressing, similar to a Kani salad, but with noodles!
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted lightly
1. In a large pot, bring 5 quarts salted to a boil. Add noodles and boil until al dente. Drain noodles in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water. In a large bowl toss noodles with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Combine the remaining sesame oil, the rice vinegar sugar and the water in a measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large non-stick skillet heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over moderately high heat. then add carrots and bell peppers. Saute until tender and slightly caramelized. Remove to a separate bowl. Now add the tablespoon of sesame oil to the skillet, and add ginger, garlic and scallions. Saute for 3 minutes, then add all the spinach at once, stirring and tossing until spinach is wilted.
4, Add the carrots and bell peppers back to the pan and let cook 1 more minute. Scrape the vegetable mixture over the noodles and toss well.
5. Pour the dressing into that same skillet, scraping up all the bits of flavor stuck to the pan (the fond), and cook until slightly reduced and thickened. Immediately pour over noodle-vegetable mixture and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and either let chill in the fridge for cold soba noodles, for several hours or overnight, or serve it immediately, hot or warm. However, you could chill it to let the flavors intensify overnight, then heat it up again before serving. Finally, you can also serve it room temp. After chilling, let it come close to room temperature then top with lightly toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
Tempura Battered Poached Eggs (Poached Egg Tempura)
1. Poach 4 eggs, then immediately slide into a bowl of ice water. Cover and let chill while you make your tempura batter.
2. Heat 2 inches oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan (about 1 1/2 inches deep) over high heat until deep-fat thermometer registers 375°F.
3. When ready to fry, gently blot any water from top of poached eggs with paper towels, then sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper and/or spice of your choice.
4. Carefully dredge 1 poached egg in flour, gently dusting off excess. Transfer egg to bowl of batter, spooning the batter over it to coat completely. Lift it out gently with a slotted spoon, letting excess batter drip off. Gently lower spoon into oil and let egg slide off. fry for 20 seconds, then remove and place on a paper lined cooling rack. Repeat with remaining poached eggs, 1 at a time.