After all of the indulgent excesses of the holidays my body wants something healthy, restorative and balancing, and this recipe for Soba with Shiitake Dashi sounded perfect. It is from "3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery" by Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi Nancy O'Hara. There is an added benefit if you eat this dish on the eve of the new year, as soba noodles are considered lucky because of their shape and length--the longer and unbroken the better. Thought to bring good luck and a "long and lean life" the Japanese practice an old custom on New Year's Eve of eating a special soba noodle dish called "toshikoshi soba" or "passing of the year" soba. Whether you believe in these customs or not, slurping up this healthy bowl of noodles will at least ensure you a healthy and delicious meal and put you on your way to a healthy year.
3 Bowls says: "Soba are thin, delicate noodles made from buckwheat. I serve soba with dashi, a light broth traditionally made from sea vegetables, fish, or shiitake mushroom. All of the components can be prepared in advance: the soba is served at room temperature, and the dashi simply needs to be reheated."
Soba with Shiitake Dashi
"3 Bowls", Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi Nancy O'Hara
(Makes 4-6 Servings)
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
3/4 cup sake
1/2 cup tamari
1 Tbsp mirin
2 pinches sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 lbs soba noodles
2 sheets nori, thinly shredded (see notes)
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal (see notes)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp wasabi powder, mixed with just enough water to form a soft paste (see notes)
1 2-inch piece daikon, peeled and grated
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
Dashi: Bring 2 3/4 cup cups water and the mushrooms to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl with a slotted spoon and reserve for another use. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or a coffee filter placed in a strainer set over a medium saucepan to remove any dirt.
Add the sake, tamari, mirin, and salt to the mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the alcohol aroma disappears, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, and serve immediately or cover and set aside. If the dashi is too strong for your taste, dilute it with hot water.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water and cook the soba to the desired doneness, 5-8 minutes. Drain, rinse well under cold water, using your hands to gently swish the noodles, and drain again. Repeat. Serve immediately or place in a colander, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside.
Condiments: Divide the soba among 4 to 6 serving bowls, swirling each serving into a mound, and sprinkle with the nori. Place 1/2 to 3/4 cup hot dashi in separate individual bowls alongside each serving of soba. Serve the remaining condiments on a small platter or in little bowls at the center of the table so the diners can help themselves.
To shred nori: Several sheets of nori can be cut at once. With the short side toward you, cut with scissors or a very sharp knife along the length of the long side, making 4 equal strips, about 2-inches wide. Stack the strips and cut through them as thinly as possible to form dainty toothpick-size strips.
To cut scallions on the diagonal: This is a traditional Japanese cut. Slice only 1 scallion at a time. Slice the scallion every 1/8 to 1/4 inch on a very sharp diagonal (at least 45 degrees). Keep the tip of your knife on the cutting board and pull it toward you, sliding it on the cutting board and slicing through the scallion. This will give you a much cleaner cut than chopping down through the scallion.
To make wasabi paste: Mix the wasabi powder with just enough cold water to form a paste. Let stand covered for 10 minutes. The flavor will develop, and the paste will firm up a bit. Prepare as close to serving time as possible and make only as much as you need; its strong punch doesn't last long. Commercial packaged wasabi paste can be used directly from the tube or jar.
To prepare in advance: The dashi can be made a few days in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and reheated just before serving. The soba noodles can be cooked a few hours ahead. Rinse and drain the noodles every 45 minutes or so--whenever they start sticking together. The sesame and nori can be prepared a few days before serving and stored at room temperature in an airtight container. The remaining condiments should be prepared the day of serving and refrigerated. Grate the ginger and make the wasabi paste no more than 1 hour before serving.
Notes/Results: Flavorful and good. It may seem like a lot of steps and ingredients but this goes together easily. The shiitake broth is very rich and delicious and adds so many layers of flavors. This is a great dish when you want to eat simply and is very nourishing as the buckwheat soba noodles are made from is a great source vitamins B1 and B2, several different minerals, and has nearly twice the amount of proteins found in rice. So slurp and enjoy!
Have a wonderful, healthy and happy New Year!