Soba and Somen: Cooking Japanese cold noodles

21 Aug

I love Japanese cold noodles. The first time I’ve tasted cold soba is from Komoro Soba at Megamall. They serve a cold soba set with an optional small bowl of katsudon for around Php 150 (~$3.33). In succeeding Japanese restaurants I go to, I always have an impulse to try their cold noodle offering but I end up getting something else like sushi or a donburi. I’ve also tried some assorted ramen-type dishes in various other restaurants. Recently, I’ve gotten the guts to try cooking cold noodles myself.

Here are the things I’ve learned (aka how to prepare cold noodles):

1. Japanese noodles aren’t really hard to cook. They are very similar to cooking regular spaghetti, just omit the salt and/or oil. Make sure that your water is already boiling before you put in the noodles. The length of time for boiling depends on the type of noodle you are cooking.

Soba – 10 minutes
Somen – 3-5 minutes

2. Washing the noodles is very important. They get rid of excess starch in the noodles. I find that the easiest way to do this is to dump all of the boiled noodles in a large colander, then run tap water through them. After a bit, you can gently stir the noodles around in the colander with your hands.

3. The ice bath is also important. After you have rinsed your noodles, transfer them from the colander into a prepared ice bath (a bowl of water with ice cubes). Keep them there for around a minute or two, then transfer into a serving plate like this.

4. I got the dipping sauce recipe (and the instructions on how to cook soba) from JustHungry. To save you from tracing back the steps, here’s a short version:

Bring to boil 1.5 tbs of mirin (should only take a few seconds) in a small saucepan. Add 1.5 tbs of white sugar and stir until all the sugar have been melted. Add 0.5 cups of soy sauce (light soy would work best), and stir a little. Take the pan off the heat. Add anywhere between 1.5 to 3 cups of dashi stock depending on how you want your dipping sauce to taste. Personally, I like to add all 3 cups of stock especially if you have rather strong soy sauce. Dashi stock? Dissolve 4 grams of dashi granules in 3 cups of water. You might need to heat the water a little to make sure all the granules are dissolved.

Make sure to chill the dipping sauce well before serving the noodles. Warm dipping sauce is not really delicious.

Notes: a) If you can’t be bothered with preparing your own dipping sauce, you can buy bottled mentsuyu in the Japanese section of your local grocery or supermarket. I’ve seen some at Landmark and Robinson’s supermarkets. Incidentally, you can also find dashi granules and the actual soba and somen there. b) The packets say that the serving size is 100 grams per person. Conveniently, soba and somen come in pre-bundled um… bundles, so just cook 1 bundle per person that you are serving. This amount will fill your entire carb requirement for a meal. If you’re planning to eat other carbs with your meal, adjust the amount appropriately. c) Usually you put condiments on either your noodles or the dipping sauce or both. The article above lists some condiments you can try. Most of the time I forget to put condiments, but the noodles taste good regardless.

Soba – thin buckwheat noodles that are usually brown, although I’ve seen some packs that say they are cha soba (green-tea flavored) and are thereby greenish. I mentioned that you should boil these for 10 minutes, but you could cook for a shorter period if you want to have firmer noodles. Here’s a meal for one I did a week ago.

Somen – very thin white noodles made of wheat flour, very reminiscent of vermicelli or angel hair pasta. Again here is a meal for one I made earlier this week. I find that I like somen better than soba because of its light airy texture. It also holds the taste of the dipping sauce better.

Next stop: noodle salads, noodles in bento, noodles in soup, and udon


Posted by on August 21, 2010 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Soba and Somen: Cooking Japanese cold noodles

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