Monday, February 14, 2011

Soba noodle salad and Tempura - Daring cooks challange

My heart sank a little this month when I saw two Japanese dishes were the challenge.  Don't get me wrong I am sure there is much good Japanese food out there and I have had my fair share of California rolls and tempura but it is just not a food I have ever been able to be very enthusiastic about.

To make matters worse one of the dishes was a cold noodle salad and cold noodles is one thing I really don't care for, on the upside I do like tempura any way here goes.

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,, and

I decided to make the best of this challenge, keep an open mind and invite some friends over. Connie and I headed over to TNT supermarket that sells all things Asian, always an interesting experience, and picked up the ingredients we needed, including the soba noodles dashi and fixings for making sushi.  If we were going to have a Japanese meal then we would go all out and added chicken karaage and sushi to the two dishes mandated.

soba (buckwheat noodles)

From doing research as well as the information provided by the hosts I found that these noodles could be used in a soup as well as served cold in this salad and they should be cooked in small bundles, which how these were packaged.  The noodles are served with varied accompaniments, I served cut up chicken which I had poached, cucumber, green onion and very thin slice omelet.

To make this very thin omelet you need one egg a tablespoon of water and a teaspoon of flour mix all together with a fork and pour in to a non stick frying pan.

This is very thin and cooks quickly, the flour keeps it together when you flip it over and then slice into thin strips. So all the ingredients were prepared and served on a platter.  The idea is to pick up some noodles and some of the fixings and dip in to a dipping sauce.

None of us were very adept at this and so we ended putting the ingredients in small bowls and pouring over the sauce.

The sauce
2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi (This can be bought in many forms from most Asian
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)

I combined all the ingredients in a small pot as instructed and then as I found it rather bland I added some hot pepper flakes.

Tempura is something I will often order in Japanese restaurant so I was a little more enthusiastic about this.  We picked up Japanese eggplant, red pepper, green beans and yams to dip in the batter and fry.

I made a very thin batter of 1/2 cornstarch and half flour mixed with iced water.  dipped the vegetables in this a few at a time and deep fried in pot of hot oil.

Rather over done tempura
Deep frying with a kitchen full of people in a festive mood is not an easy or safe thing to do.  We had one flare up of kitchen paper and my concentration was mixed at best so I am afraid the tempura vegetables consistently got over cooked.  This is the only picture I have of them as it was rather chaotic I am afraid.

Connie and Karl also made a large platter of sushi, California roll, spicy tuna as well as just plain tuna.

These were really delicious, though they were making them at the same time as I was cooking the noodles and frying the tempura.  It was all a little crowded, but I kind of like it that way.

Will I ever make either of these dishes again? probably not but I have a new appreciation for the light crisp tempura I have in restaurants and I realized afterwards, I did not put in the love and passion that I usually do when I cook and it showed.

I am glad I did the challenge it is good to put yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while and isn't that what a daring cooks challenge is all about.


  1. Gillian, your tempura looks beautiful! Thanks for visiting my blog today! And I'd love to be "Daring" enough to try making sushi!

  2. Too bad you didn't like the dishes but at least you tried ad they look good!