Sunday, February 04, 2007

Clear Japanese soup with soba

It's been cold here recently (we got frost here a few weeks ago), and thus my SO and I have been in the mood for soups. One of our current favorites is this quick and easy clear Japanese soup with soba. The broth is a great combination of savory, salty, and sweet, yet it's made from only three ingredients: dashi (the classic Japanese soup stock that's used in many dishes, including miso soup), soy sauce, and mirin (sweet sake). Since we just cooked up a batch of this today (to have as a drink, acutally; see notes), it's this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

6 cups water
~4" piece konbu (~3-6 square inches)
1 package (10g / 0.35 oz) instant dashi powder (or 6 cups dashi in place of the water, konbu, and dashi powder)
1/4 cup low-salt soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 bundles dry soba (100g / 3.5 oz each)
Nori, cut into thin strips (~1/8" x 2", but it doesn't matter) for garnishing

To make this soup we cook the noodles separately from the broth, put the noodles into a bowl, and then ladle as much broth as we want on top of the cooked noodles.

To make the broth:

1. Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold it.
2. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the konbu, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Remove the konbu and stir in the dashi powder, soy sauce, and mirin.
4. Keep warm until the soba is ready.

To cook the soba:

1. Follow the package directions. We add the dry soba to a pot of boiling water (not the soup stock), cook for 5 minutes, and then drain the soba.

To assemble the soup:

1. Place the desired amount of soba noodles in each bowl.
2. Ladle a sufficient amount of broth over the noodles.
3. Serve with thinly cut pieces of nori on the side, and extra broth on the table (or in the kitchen), for those who want more.


Nori is the toasted sheets of seaweed that are often used to wrap sushi; it adds a nice, crunchy texture to the soup. However, the nori gets soggy quickly, and thus it's best to sprinkle on only a couple pieces at a time as you eat.

We typically use instant dashi powder (instead of making dashi from scratch) primarily because it's quicker and cheaper (shaved bonito is expensive!). If you're using dashi stock instead of the instant powder, just bring the dashi to a simmer and then add the soy sauce and mirin.

Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles; they're typically brownish in color. We try to get brands that have a high buckwheat content, as many manufacturers dilute the buckwheat with regular wheat flour.

This recipe scales extremely well; make as little or as much as you want. Leftover broth stores extremely well, but soba should ideally be cooked fresh (it gets soggy with storage), so only cook up as much soba as you plan on eating in one sitting.

This soup makes an excellent savory drink as well. My SO and I sometimes make this recipe (leaving out the soba and nori) to drink on on cold days or whenever we're tired of our usual assortment of drinks.

As with all our recipes, we make no representation as to the authenticity of this recipe; in fact, from what we know, soba is most often eaten drained and dipped into small bowls of sauce.

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