In the summer, the Japanese enjoy refreshing noodle dishes likely to please anyone sweltering in the late-summer heat. These dishes are truly cool—one presents the noodles floating in a bowl of ice cubes.
The classic way to prepare Japanese pasta, known as sashimizu or “add water” method, includes rinsing the noodles in cold water after they are cooked. With sashimizu, each time the water boils, add a cup of cold water. Repeat process up to three times, depending on the thickness of noodles.
Meanwhile, test noodles constantly by biting into a single strand. Noodles should be firm but tender. Drain well and rinse noodles thoroughly under cold water until surface starch has washed away. This keeps them from sticking together.
Cold buckwheat noodles can be served on a glass plate with a bowl of cold, savoury-sweet soy-based dipping sauce on the side. Or put the noodles in a clear glass bowl and ladle over the dipping sauce.
Iced thin wheat noodles with dipping sauce are perfect for hot days. To enjoy this angel hair-thin pasta, lift a mouthful of somen from the icy bath, using chopsticks or twirling the noodles around a fork, and swoosh them in a flavourful dipping sauce.
1-1/2 cups dashi (recipe below)
3 tbsps. Japanese soy sauce
1-1/2 tbsps. sugar
1 tbsp. sweetened rice wine, sake or sherry
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, heat through, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Chill well. Makes 1-1/4 cups.
Dashi (Basic Japanese broth):
5 dried shitakke mushrooms
Green tops from I leek
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 or 5 slices
1 small parsnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tbsp. Japanese soy sauce
In a medium saucepan, soak the shitakke in 1 cup hot water until mushrooms are soft, 20 to 30 minutes.
To mushrooms and their soaking water, add leek green, onion, ginger, parsnip, garlic and 5 cups water.
Over high heat, bring to a boil; reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.
Strain, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids; return liquid to pot. Over medium high heat, cook until liquid is reduced to one litre (four cups). Add soy sauce. Makes 1-3/4 cups.
This dashi can be made ahead and frozen until needed. It can be heated and served as a clear soup, with cubes of tofu, sliced carrots and chopped green onions.
ZARU SOBA (Cold Buckwheat Noodles)
12 oz. dried soba noodles
1/2 sheet nori (dried seaweed), optional
1 recipe dipping sauce
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsps. grated fresh ginger
2 tsps. wasabi (Japanese horseradish) or any sharp mustard
Prepare soba, using sashimizu method. Drain, rinse well and drain thoroughly.
Divide the noodles among four small plates or bowls.
If using nori, hold sheet over direct heat until crisped, a minute or so.
Fold it several times and crumble in a clean paper towel. Sprinkle some of the crumbled nori over each mound of noodles.
If nori is unavailable, substitute four tsps. sesame seeds, lightly toasted, in a heavy dry skillet until they smell aromatic, about 4 minutes.
Divide chilled dipping sauce among four individual cups. Serve along with the noodles.
Serve the green onions, grated ginger and wasabi or mustard on a serving dish or in three separate small dishes, to add to dipping sauce at the table. Makes four servings.