I love the days when the Daring Kitchen challenges are revealed to members. If I am home, I check frequently, waiting for the challenge to appear. So, last month, when I checked on the challenge for February, I had to laugh. It was for hiyashi soba, which is a cold buckwheat noodle dish from Japan, accompanied by tempura. What did I find so funny? Just that it was -30℃/-22℉ that day! I could not imagine making any kind of salad, so I put off the challenge. Fast forward to February 11th, and I realized I only had a few more days. Now, putting things off till the last minute is much more my style, so I was ready to go. First off, the soba noodles:
Now, not only was I pondering the challenge for 3 weeks, but I also had to wait for my sister-in-law to bring me my pasta machine. Of course I planned to make my own soba! I enjoy making pasta, though I rarely do so, and I wanted to try my hand at an eggless noodle made with gluten-free buckwheat flour. I also like making things much more difficult than they need to be. The dough was like an unforgiving block of rapidly drying cement, and it kept crumbling as I tried to knead and roll it. Finally, I had to add more water and knead it for about 10 minutes to try to activate the gluten in the small amount of all-purpose flour. When I couldn't take it any longer, I started thinning the sheets in the pasta machine and cutting it into noodles. Some sheets worked, and others crumbled to bits as they were going through the machine. What you can see above is what I got from 1¼ cups of flour. What you see below are the defective noodles. They were falling out of the pasta cutter like this. I dried them and will use them in soup one of these days.
The noodles were very fragile, both when fresh and dried. However, once they were cooked, I was able to rinse and agitate them in cold water and they did not break. I won't be making them again, though, as I now think packaged soba noodles are worth looking for and worth every penny! For the 'salad', I steamed some soybean sprouts and snow peas. I also made paper-thin Japanese omelets and cut them into strips. This was probably my favourite part of the challenge, as I love anything to do with eggs. I served it with a spicy soy-based dipping sauce. All recipes can be found in the challenge PDF, at the end of the post.
Now, the tempura. I again used the challenge recipe for the batter, but it didn't stick that well to all the vegetables. It worked best on the shrimp, which were fried at 170℃/340℉, while the vegetables were fried at 160℃/320℉. If I ever make tempura again, I'll use the higher temperature for everything. Why 'if ever'? Well, because it was good enough that I ate too much and I feel a bit icky right now. And my place smells like a chip wagon. Luckily it's not too far below zero, so the windows are open!
|L to R: shrimp, onion, sweet potato, snow peas, lotus root|
It's funny, but I worked in Japan for about 6 months, and when I found out I had got the job, one of the things I was least excited about was the food. Japanese food just seemed so mild-mannered compared to the strong, spicy flavours I prefer. I had to eat my words when I was there, because in 6 months I didn't have a bad meal, and I was so impressed with the impeccable presentation and clean flavours. Oh, and the cakes! I really need to cook more Japanese food! Thanks so much to Lisa of Blueberry Girl for the challenge. Check out the Daring Kitchen homepage for a slideshow of the most beautiful soba and tempura you'll see outside of Japan.
Complete challenge PDF, with all recipes and links.
Blog-checking lines: 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