Chilled Sesame Soba
My computer’s finally up and running and I’m a few posts behind. And, you know, if things really can’t get any worse, it was confirmed today that the 2009 A Level results will be released on Friday. Oh joy.
It’s never meant to be easy. This is merely a rite of passage, as they say.
Well in that case, I’m sure it’s not too late for me to join a tribe where they just pierce something, or cut something off. Because I suppose I could survive without a limb. See, now that’s a rite of passage – done the proper, predictable way. You know what to expect, and if they’re kind, they’ll count to three for you.
This isn’t a rite of passage.
This is purgatory – torturous and excruciating, where the seconds stretch on into hours and where the probability of suffering from an apoplexy is high up in the upper quartiles.
Feel free to pee in your pants, because life’s like that you see, you just have to let some things go.
Let’s spend these last few days relishing in what life is and never will be again. (ie. EAT)
Oh, but you guys can go ahead though, because I already had pancakes, dangos, soba, miso soup, Tampopo ramen and yakisoba, Turkish ice cream, Haato ice cream, Flying Bread Cinnamon Bun, Cheng Teng and Passion fruit Souffles over the weekend. Sorry I started without y’all.
Weekends, for me, are like that. Unbridled and compulsive gluttony, where food left unattended around me will vanish before you can say “You Pig!”, and where I am compelled to dwell in the kitchen for hours – and for any reason conceivable – to cook up a storm. Nevermind the occasional stench of burning food and in hindsight, perhaps my frenzy over the weekend was a subconscious awareness of my impending doom.
I somehow knew.
So when no one wanted to do anything for Saturday lunch, I gladly volunteered my services.
Cold soba would be perfect for such – Horrid! Horrid! – weather I thought. Of course that was until I started banging the pots and pans that I wished we could all just sit around, ooze all over the sofa in a sweaty, sticky mess as we hug a box of Cornettos each. Chilled soba would never be able to ease the thick heat, short of freezing them.
Well that’s Singapore for you. I’ll just stay in my air-conditioned room thank you very much.
But that’s not how it works all the time in Japan (and Korea too, as I’ve heard). The people eat ice cream in winter, as though the winds weren’t biting enough. Alright, I’ll admit I’d have a tub all to myself in the middle of an avalanche just because it’s soooo good.
That said, one would think that good soba isn’t easy to make since all the best ones are all freshly hand-made by seasoned professionals, hands probably molecularly bonded to flour by now from all that kneading and stretching. And here’s where I prove you wrong. Store-bought, dried soba is sufficient, and miso soup is so easy to throw together that you would head out immediately after reading this to purchase your very own tub of miso paste (versatile thing too).
There are many types of soba and the most common ones I’ve come across would be buckwheat soba and green tea soba, the latter coloured this odd shade of green, so I naturally always buy buckwheat.
When it comes to miso paste, you’d think it’d be straightforward. Nuh uh. There are so many varieties, in all sorts of colours from dark red to pale yellow that you would abandon all attempt at picking one and run for the hills. They vary in saltiness and in the depth of flavour. I can’t boast that I’ve tried them all (actually I only have this one tub), but a good bet in buying one would be to check the list of english ingredients on a white sticker on the back of a tub. Any supermart will have a Japanese section, no matter how small. Sometimes, miso paste comes enhanced with bonito essence, so those would be the best for miso soups, saving your the trouble of buying separate bonito stock cubes. Check the ingredients.
Bonito’s a species of fish of the mackeral family that the Japanese love to prepare in flakes or even sheets, often using these flakes to boil large quantities of bonito stock or as a garnish for dishes, more popularly atop street food such as Takoyaki. Yep, those brown, paper-thin wisps that seem to move with a life of their own are bonito flakes. They give a distinctive fishy aroma to food, in a good way of course.
Instead of the traditional method of eating cold soba by dipping the strands into a little cup of sauce, I skipped that. But not because it’s tedious or anything, but more so due helping myself with the washing up. Think about the extra bowls you’ll have to soap and sud. Also, this method makes a mighty tasty twist to the usual chilled soba that we’re all used to.
Chilled Sesame Soba adapted from Nigella Lawson
- 75g sesame seeds (a mixture of black and white if you prefer)
- 250g soba noodles *
- 2 tsp rice vinegar**
- 5 tsp soy sauce***
- 3 tsp sesame dressing (optional)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 5 spring onions
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over high heat until slightly fragrant and starting to pop. Pour into a bowl and let cool.
2. Have a large pot of water boil and add some salt. Put the dried soba noodles into the pot (you don’t have to put any oil in. The noodles won’t stick.) and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn. Test the texture of the noodles. They should still retain some bite, a little before turning chewy, and depending on the type of soba you buy, the cooking time may differ. Prepare a bowl of iced water to submerge the noodles into after draining.
3. In a large bowl, mix the vinegar, oil, soy sauce and sesame dressing**** (if using). Drain the noodles and toss them in with the soy sauce mixture along with the sesame seeds. Place the noodles on a serving plate or bowl and garnish with roughly chopped spring onions.
*Some packets of soba noodles come already divided into little bundles inside like mine did (each was 90g). Use 3 bundles.
**The rice vinegar gives a hint of tartness to the noodles which, in my opinion, balances the saltiness of the soy sauce. Omit if you wish to.
***Regular soy sauce will do although Japanese soy sauce will be preferable.
****Sesame dressing, as it’s name implies, is meant for salads. But because it’s so delicious, I use it atop whatever I want. I saw cheap ones at Daiso. I needn’t state the price need I?
- 3 tbs miso paste*
- 2 litres water
- 3 spring onions
- 2 tbs dried wakame seaweed **
- 1 carton silken/firm tofu
1. Soak the dried wakame seaweed in a bowl of water until they expand. Drain the water.
2. Bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a pot. While waiting for the water to boil, spoon out the miso paste into a separate small bowl and add water a little at a time, mixing with the spoon until mostly dissolved. Pour miso mixture into the pot of boiling water and taste. Depending on the salt content of the miso paste you bought, adding more miso paste may be necessary.
3. Slice the tofu into cubes and add to the pot.
4. Chop up the spring onions and sprinkle over the top of a bowl of miso soup once done.
*I used miso paste that is flavoured with bonito. Regular miso paste works fine.
**The cheapest wakame I’ve come across is sold at Daiso. Don’t be fooled by their flaky and shrivelled texture. They balloon almost aggressively.