Cold soba noodles are a Japanese summer staple… when the weather gets really hot, these buckwheat noodles make a very refreshing and light meal (especially when you don’t feel like eating anything too hot or heavy). This type of soba is served with various toppings (usually nori and chopped green onion), along with a side of dipping sauce. I also like to add strips of Japanese omelet (made with dried fish flakes) and sliced fish cake.
Most of the items you need to make this dish can be found in the international aisle of the regular supermarket: dried soba noodles, Kikkoman brand “Memmi” noodle soup base, and seasoned nori. Some supermarkets sell Japanese fish cake in the refrigerated section near the tofu (look for the half cylinder of pink and white fish cake labeled “kamaboko“, which is vacuum sealed in plastic on a small wooden plank).
Instead of the pink kamaboko, I sometimes use the fried fish cake with burdock root: “Gobo Tenpura” (see the picture below) – which is easier to find at an Asian supermarket like 99 Ranch or Mitsuwa. If you can’t find the katsuobushi (dried shaved bonita fish) you can omit it – it is not essential – but if you want to get it, I usually buy it at 99 Ranch or Mitsuwa.
The dipping sauce for the soba noodles is made with bottled “mentsuyu”. Mentsuyu is a concentrate made from a combination of soy sauce, mirin, sake, kombu (kelp), and katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes) – it can be diluted in various proportions (with water) to make a flavorful soup base for noodle soups like udon, or can be used to make dipping sauces for noodles/tempura/etc. I prefer the Kikkoman brand mentsuyu, “Memmi” (see the picture below) – and I usually have a bottle in the refrigerator (it keeps for a really long time). (The reason why I prefer this brand is because it is made with Kikkoman soy sauce, and I’m a soy sauce snob! When you grow up with a particular product (like Kikkoman soy sauce) – you get used to the taste, and anything else just doesn’t measure up!)
Zaru Soba (2-3 servings):
- 2 bundles of Soba Noodles (about 8 oz dry)
- 1 small packet of seasoned nori
- 2 green onions
- 1/2 package gobo fishcake or pink kamaboko
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1/4 c. Katsuobushi (dried shaved bonita fish)
- 1 T. canola oil
- 1/4 c. Kikkoman Memmi Noodle Soup Base
- 1 c. cold water
- grated ginger. 1/2 tsp. per person (optional)
1. First, beat the eggs, soy sauce, and katsuobushi with a fork.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then pour in the egg mixture. Heat until bubbly and the bottom is solidified, then flip.
3. After about 30 seconds (or when the bottom is cooked), remove from the pan and allow to cool on paper towels (to absorb the extra oil).
4. Set some water in a large pot to boil. Mix the Memmi noodle soup base with the 1 c. cold water. (Recommended ratio for Zaru soba sauce is 1 part Memmi to 4 parts water). You can add 1/2 tsp. grated ginger into an individual portion of sauce if desired.
5. Using kitchen shears, cut the nori into strips.
6. Slice the fried egg, gobo fishcake (or pink kamaboko), and green onion.
7. Once the water is boiling, add the dried soba noodles and cook for about 5-8 minutes until done.
8. Drain the noodles, and rinse immediately with cold water. You can add some ice to chill the noodles even further.
9. Place the cold cooked soba noodles onto individual plates, top with the fried egg, fish cake, green onion, and shredded nori. Serve with an individual side of sauce. To eat, take a portion of noodles with topping, dip into the sauce, and eat!