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.
With all good challenges, you have to start somewhere. The Distracted Cook started by reading the recipes and then driving off to Whole Foods. This is what came home:
There were many things in these bags that I had never tried cooking before. The first of these was the soba noodles. I have often seen them on grocery shelves, but was never even tempted to try making them. Now was the time to break out of that rut!
We were required to make the noodles and the recipes also included two dipping sauces for them. I decided to make them first as a warm -up exercise. And it was really easy, just like the recipe said it would be.
Here you can see the ingredients for the two sauces. I will have to confess that the first sauce, although probably the most traditional, was the one I liked least. The second sauce was really flavorful with sesame oil, finely chopped green onion, some dry mustard and other really great things. This one was just a pour and shake type sauce, while the first involved actually cooking! No wonder I liked that second one. By the end of dinner, I had poured my little bowl of Sauce 1 into the bowl of Sauce 2 and I really liked the combination.
After making the sauces, I decided to get the vegetables chopped and sliced for the tempura. I usually never think ahead enough to do the customary "prep", but this time, Oh Yes!
You can see the sweet potato slices taking a nice cold ice bath after being blanched. I also had shrimp, mushrooms, and red and yellow bell peppers for the tempura. Now I have never done a tempura before either - around here we fry shrimp in cornmeal and flour, just like we do our oysters. So I learned a new way to do this and it is perfect! Such a delicate taste - almost like a cloud. The taste of the actual shrimp or vegetable is what you get, not just what you dredged them with. I will definitely do this again!
This is what the soba noodles looked like after they had been rinsed and set aside to cool. When you visit Lisa's site you will find links to wonderful videos that show you how to properly cook the noodles. All I will say is that it isn't what you would think, and it is fun to watch!
After the sauces and the noodles were done, it was time for the tempura. I got so busy that I forgot to grab the camera and record some of the progress. So you will have to settle for seeing the end result and not the process itself.
One of the comments about deep frying the tempura is that you don't want to leave it in the hot grapeseed oil too long or it will begin to brown. Well, believe me, around these parts you will be shot if you call something fried and it isn't"golden brown" at the very least. I followed directions, but next time? You bet - I will leave them in and go for a nice golden brown finish.
And here is the final product! Two dipping sauces, some grated daikon, some toasted nori (that is the name for toasted sea vegetable.) We had two different kinds of Sake with dinner and it was a lovely dinner that is for sure.
I thank Lisa and The Daring Cook challenge for bringing me to the table for Soba and Tempura. If you would like to join us in these exciting culinary adventures, just go to The Daring Kitchen and join us. I promise you won't be disappointed!