I recently joined the Daring Kitchen. I'd been looking for cooking and baking inspiration, and joining a community that hosts monthly challenges, offers support via forums and helpful participants, and provides LOTS of yummy recipes seemed to be the best way for me to stay inspired to try new things.
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 japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.
Being that this was my first challenge, I was a bit timid in my approach. While I usually face new scenarios with gusto and moxie, I do sometimes feel like a shy kid who just transferred to a new school- afraid someone will point me out and say, "You don't belong here... you're in the wrong class!" Oh. The. Horror. So anyway, now that I understand how the DK forums work and that everyone there is there to LEARN and share, I'll be more confident the next time around. That said, what I made was DELICIOUS, so lets move on to that.
The recipe I used for both the soba noodle sauce, and the tempura batter was provided by the Daring Kitchen:
2 quarts water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz dried buckwheat (soba) noodles
Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Use care not to overcook them.
Drain and rinse the noodles well under cold running water. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Mentsuyu (Traditional dipping sauce):
2 cups Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi- Or a basic vegetable stock.
1/3 cup soy sauce or a low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup iced water
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
Green beans, trimmed
Assorted fresh mushrooms
Additional vegetables of your choice...
Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flour and cornstarch and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F; for seafood it should be 340°F. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.
The results of this dinner were so tasty. When I had started this recipe on my own, I realized that I was out of peanut oil (which I like to use for frying.) I made a total rookie mistake and combined THREE types of oils in one pot to fry my first round of tempura. The hiss and sizzle coming from my heavy, iron pot made me fear for my safety, and the safety of my kitchen so I immediately turned OFF my stove, and called my husband to pick up peanut oil on his way home.
While the evening meal was delayed as I waited patiently for my oil delivery, I was so happy to have an extra set of hands in the kitchen. One person would dredge the veggies and shrimp in the batter, while the other scooped out the crispy golden tempura veg from the hot oil. The photo quality may have suffered some since our kitchen was so dark, but it was worth having help during this frying process!
One other thing we noted was how the fried tempura could have been rather heavy- or at least, felt sort of unhealthy, but paired with the cold soba noodles, there was a very nice balance to this meal. It's one we will be making again at home very soon... so thanks for the challenge, Daring Kitchen!
Oh! AND Happy Valentine's Day friends... That shrimp heart is just for you :)