Noodle Bowl Winter Night

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Laura, Emily, Hilary (V), Tyler (D) and Hilary (M-B, myself) made five at the eighth meeting of the Macrobiotic Cooking Club.

One Degree, Fahrenheit

Laura four-wheel-drove us through the frozen outdoors to get sake and ingredients. Steaming noodle bowls and sweet roasted squash added another sixty or so degrees to the one outside.

The Menu:

Baked Puffed Mochi
Soba Noodles in Japanese-Style Broth (Fish-less Dashi)
Roasted Buttercup Squash
Brown Rice

We drank Corn Silk tea and Odell’s Isolation Ale while chopping the Buttercup and bringing seaweed to boiling. After adding a splash of sake to the noodle broth, we let the bottle bubble in the noodle-water pot to heat.

Pounded or Purchased Sweet Rice Snacks

Mochi is a Japanese snack food made from sweet rice. Grainaissance, the same company that makes sometimes-available commercial amasake, also makes widely available commercial mochi.

Commercial mochi is a ‘slice and bake’ pounded sweet rice snack that is packaged as flat rectangular cakes. The cakes are hard until you cut them into small squares with a sturdy knife and bake them in a hot (450 degree) oven.

Mochi puff in the oven, becoming light and chewy.

Dashi, Traditional As You Like

Japanese Dashi is made by bringing water to boiling with a piece of kelp submerged, then adding shaved dried bonito fish, briefly, before straining it all. The resulting stock is light and used in everything from vinegar dressings for salads to clear, hot still-life soups. The Japanese often use granulated instant dashi now, but traditional homemade dashi will lend authentic Japanese flavor even to American-made noodle bowls.

We combined two styles of Japanese dashi for a vegetarian noodle broth. First, we made Kombu Dashi by placing a few squares of kombu in cold water and bringing it to boiling. Then, we removed the kelp and transformed the liquid into Shiitake Dashi with dried shiitake mushrooms.

Noodle Broth
Adapted from Shizuo Tsuji’s recipe in Japanese Cooking; A Simple Art

8 cups cold water
4-5 pieces kombu (kelp), about 4″ x 4″ each
7-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 Tablespoons tamari soy sauce
2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
2 Tablespoons sake
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 Tablespoons kudzu root starch, ground and dissolved in cold water

These measurements are approximate. The soy sauce, rice syrup, sake and salt must be adjusted to taste. You will know when the seasonings are balanced by tasting a distinct Japanese flavor. The kudzu is optional. It thickens the broth.

Place the kelp and cold water in a pot over medium heat and bring just to boiling. Remove the kelp and add the shiitake mushrooms. We let the mushrooms simmer for 10-15 minutes to infuse their flavor into the broth.

Strain the mushrooms out, reserving them and returning the pot to heat. Add the tamari, rice syrup, sake and salt, adjusting to taste once they are all in.

When the broth is seasoned, add the dissolved kudzu and stir, simmering, until the broth thickens.

Steaming Noodle Bowls

You must have heard somewhere about the Japanese custom of slurping noodles hot. They slurp to eat noodles steaming hot without burning their mouths. In order to serve hot noodles, keep the broth simmering while you boil the noodles; and have all of the other components ready.

We topped the soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms cooked in oil, then added the hot dashi and a garnish of sliced green onions.

Cutting the Round Vegetables

You must be cunning for the task of cutting round vegetables, such as onions, winter squash and cabbage. If their size and solidity aren’t deterrents enough, you will cuss the challenge of making uniform pieces from the shape of a globe.

For winter squash, thick wedges are satisfying. However, because of their layers, onions and cabbages are easier to cut uniformly if you slice them thin as you can.

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