A few months ago, I became very interested in japanese cooking. Sure, I’d had an interest in Japan from way back in the day, I even took a year of japanese language classes – japanese is a truly difficult language! – but the food seemed a bit weird to me, so I never went down that road. Quite frankly, I thought that all japanese cuisine was, was raw fish and seaweeds, so for years I missed out on some very special tastes and combinations.
Now, I have to point something out. Some of the ingredients required for japanese cooking are notoriously difficult to find. I mean, we find nori sheets and sake and wasabi and sushi rice (or plain short-grain rice), but mirin? And bonito flakes? And dashi stock? And soba noodles? And some other stuff I can’t even remember? No. Way. That means that I’ve had to improvise a lot, and – sadly – not even try some of the most interesting looking recipes. That also means that I have probably been missing out on the best parts of japanese cooking. But even so, the part of it that I have tasted has left me speechless. Much like their language, their food follows a very different approach than that in western – or more western than Japan – cultures.
It is most definitely worth a try.
I have a number of japanese cookbooks (eh… cookbooks with japanese recipes, not IN japanese!), but one of those that impressed me the most was Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata: Sixty Quick and Healthy Recipes, by chef Yoshihiro Murata. From what I’ve read, chef Murata is very well respected in Japan, running a number of restaurants, and is also granted with making traditional japanese cooking more contemporary and modern. His Japanese Home Cooking book also includes a lot of recipes that even I could make. One of these recipes was Soba Noodles with Sweet Soy Sauce.
You’ll say «soba noodles?» and you’ll be right. There are no soba noodles in Thessaloniki – well, I haven’t found any, anyway. So I sort of improvised a bit on that, I hope chef Murata won’t mind. In some recipes in the book using soba noodles, there is a footnote, saying that the noodles can be substituted for whole-wheat spaghetti. There was no such footnote under that recipe, but I went for it anyway!
Now, I picked this recipe, because, due to a lot of work and a guest during last weekend, we were left with literally nothing in the fridge! This recipe is really easy, costs close to nothing and you can really make it with things you will definitely find in your kitchen. I mean, who doesn’t have spaghetti, soy sauce, onions and mustard?
Here’s what you’ll need (for two people):
Sweet soy sauce broth:
¼ cup chicken broth (I used that ready made stuff, it was OK)
1 cup water
2 Tb soy sauce
1 Tb sugar
1 green onion
About 250 gr soba noodles (or whole-wheat spaghetti, like I used)
Some thinly sliced onion
Some trimmed sprouts (I didn’t have any, so I didn’t use them, which was probably wrong, because they add some needed freshness)
A little hot mustard (do NOT omit that, it is AMAZING!)
Some dried bonito flakes (if you have any)
How to make it:
Combine the ingredients for the sauce except for the onion in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from fire and let it cool. Once in room temperature, add the green onion and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the noodles – or spaghetti, whichever one you are using – according to the directions on the package. Once ready, drain, cool under some running cold water and place in two individual bowls. Top with onion, sprouts, a little mustard and then the sauce. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of it – a lot! Add the bonito flakes (if you have any). I added some pepper too, because I always do, but Mr S said he didn’t need to add anything at all.
That was a meal we really truly enjoyed – and, yes, we did drink the remaining broth out of our bowls, because it was too good to throw away!