Too Hot to Cook!

We haven’t had a single sweltering summer day, to date, in San Francisco this year. But across the country, people are baking. So all this week, Special Fork bloggers are sharing no-cook, cook-ahead or cold dishes to help lower the temperature in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

My favorite hot weather meal is cold soba noodles with a dipping sauce, called Zaru Soba. This is a Japanese classic summer dish. There’s no fat in this meal – just a clean, simple taste – so it won’t leave you feeling sluggish.

Okay, I admit there’s a bit of cooking to this and you will have to find an Asian market where you can get the ingredients. But really, you need just 4 minutes of boiling for the soba and another 4 minutes for the sauce and you’re home free.

The game plan:

  1. Make the dashi (soup stock) by combining a bag of dashi (the soup stock ingredients are in a bag like a tea bag) with water and follow package instructions (about 4 minutes).
  2. Add a few ingredients to the dashi and you have a dipping sauce.
  3. Boil the soba noodles following package directions (another 4 minutes), drain and rinse with lots of tap water to cool down the noodles completely and remove any starchiness.
  4. Serve soba with dipping sauce and a few garnishes.
You can skip steps 2 and 3 by buying the sauce premade. Then all you have to do is cook the noodles and prep the garnishes. The sauce, called tsuyu, comes in a bottle and you just thin it out with water, following direction on the bottle.

Dashi is the all-purpose soup stock and seasoning base used in many Japanese dishes. It’s made by simmering dried bonito flakes (a member of the mackerel family) and konbu (dried kelp). We’re skipping this step by using the dashi in a bag.

For the garnishes, sliced green onion and toasted nori cut in strips are all you need, and if you like a bit of a bite, add wasabi paste.

Cold Soba Noodles with Dipping Sauce
2 to 3 servings

1 dashi bag (bonito and kelp soup stock base in bag)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-1/2 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
9 1/2 ounces dried soba noodles
1 sheet toasted nori, cut in strips with kitchen shears
Sliced green onion
Wasabi paste (optional)

  1. Make dashi soup stock by combining dashi bag with water and follow package directions.
  2. Measure out 3/4 cup dashi (save remainder for soup another time)
  3. Combine the 3/4 cup hot dashi with soy sauce, mirin and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar
  4. Boil soba noodles following package directions. Drain and continue to rinse soba with cold water, tossing noodles with your hands until soba is cold. Drain completely.
  5. Divide soba into individual bowls or plates. Divide dipping sauce into individual small bowls. Top soba with nori. Pass green onion and wasabi to add as desired.
  6. To eat, sprinkle green onion and add wasabi (if using) into dipping sauce. Using chopsticks dip a small amount of soba into the dipping sauce and slurp up soba. Slurping noises are acceptable – and expected – when eating soba.

Note: Dashi bags are available in Japanese grocery stores. They come several packets to a box. Save remaining dashi soup stock (leftover from make the soba sauce) in the fridge. Add miso to the soup stock and reheat another time for miso soup.

Related posts:

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  2. Making Lavash – A Weekend Diversion
  3. Cheese, Please for St. Patrick’s Day
  4. Robert Schueller: What’s Hot in Produce
  5. Turn Veggies into “Cream” Soups

Posted: Jul 15th by Sandy_Hu