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
Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. A light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light and soft wheat flour (cake, pastry or all-purpose flour). Eggs, baking soda or baking powder, starch, oil, and/or spices may also be added.
[Eat4Fun]: My video on making Tempura...
Soba is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. It is served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It takes three months for buckwheat to be ready for harvest, so it can be harvested four times a year, mainly in spring, summer, and autumn.
Hiyashi Soba is a popular dish in summer. It's like a noodle salad. Restaurants in Japan serve Hiyashi Soba only in summer. Even if you don't have much appetite because of the heat, Hiyashi Soba can be appetizing. Common Hiyashi Soba toppings are omelet strips, ham, cucumber and grated Daikon. You can also have the noodles just with the dipping sauce.
Recipe Source: Lisa had many different versions of this dish so she combined a few different recipes from around the WWW. Most notably: Zaru Soba Noodles from About.com-Japanese Food; Zaru Soba from Globetrotter Diaries; Perfect Tempura from Pink Bites; Tempura from Itsy Bitsy Foodies; and her Japanese stepmother.
Note: The most important thing is not to overcook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared beforehand, so don’t rush.
Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:
2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian stores and you can make your own. Recipe is HERE.) Or a basic vegetable stock.
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
1. Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:
* Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
* Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
* Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
* Green beans, trimmed
* Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
* Assorted fresh mushrooms
* Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
* Onions sliced
1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.