Sunday, May 2, 2010

Soba noodles with Tempura (Tempura-soba)

Japanese kitchen is impossible without tempura. I was looking at this recipe for long while and was always feeling a bit afraid of trying it. Deep drying was just not my thing, I thought.
I went through some recipes, video tutorials and finally was ready for this experiment. To begin with - let me highlight some tips which were very helpful for me:
1. Oil temperature should be about 160-170 C (320-340 F) for meat of thick and large pieces; about 170-180 C (340-360 F) for meat of a small bite-size pieces. For vegetables though - 160-170 C (320-340 F) is quite enough. Best way to determine temperature of oil is candy thermometer. But there are some hint ho to without. Tip 1: drop a few drops of batter into frying pan with oil and if it sinks to the bottom of the pan and floats up to the surface quickly than temperature is around 160 C. Tip 2: drop of batter sinks halfway to the bottom, and floats up quickly - about 170 C.
2. Ingredients for deep frying should be put in order. First: pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot (all vegetables with  a little smell). Second: squid, shrimp and sillago (and other seafood or meat).
3. Do not deep fry many ingredients at once - they will overlap with each other preventing heat from distributing evenly.
4. Before tossing ingredients in batter - pat them dry and sprinkle with some flour.
5. Use really cold water, add few pieces of ice if needed.

I made tempura only with shrimps and served it over soba noodles in tasty stock. Soba can be easily substituted for udon.

Ingredients for Tempura:
8 fresh shrimps in shell
4 pieces of maitake mushrooms

Ingredients for Tempura batter:
1 egg yolk + chilled water to make 3/5 cup (5 oz or 142-150 ml)
3/5 cup of Hakurikiko flour (weak flour with gluten content 6 1/2-9 %)
Oil for deep frying (canola is mainly used, hence does not have a strong smell)

Method:
1. Wash shrimps in cold salty water. Remove the heads of the shrimps, devein and shell. Remove back vein with toothpick. Chop off the tips of the shrimp tails and gently press out moisture with a flat blade of the knife. If moisture remains in the tail - it will cause oil to sputter). To prevent shrimp from curling, make 3 incisions across the belly and open each of the cuts with hands to straighten the body. Wash and pat dry the mushrooms.
2. To prepare the batter: sift the flour. In a mixing bawl, lightly beat the egg yolk and pour in chilled water to make 2/5 cup. Add the sifted flour, and stir briefly. Do not over-mix, other wise the batter will become too sticky.
3. Dust shrimps and mushrooms with extra flour. Heat oil and start deep-frying while coating each ingredient with batter. Deep fry maitake first, than shrimps. Skim the oil surface to keep it clean. When the bubbles around the edges of each piece become small with the noise fading away - touch it with cooking chop-sticks. When the batter feels crispy, it is time to take it out of the pan. Place them on draining tray.

Ingredients for noodles:
7 oz dried soba (buckwheat noodles)
8 Tempura deep fried-shrimps (recipe above)
1 inch green onions
3-4 stalks trefoil

Ingredients for broth:
3 1/3 cups water
1 tsp granulated Dashi (Niboshi small dried sardines and bonito flakes flavor)
3 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp Mirin sweet cooking wine
1/2 tsp salt

Method:
1. Bring water to the boil in a large pot. Place soba noodles in the pot, boil while stirring with chop-sticks. When the water rolls up to the edges of the pot, pour in 2/5 cup of cold water. It will reduce the boiling and make noodles harder. Cook for as long as prescribed on the package - mainly 6 minutes. Drain soba on the sieve, rub and rinse in running cold water to eliminate slipperiness.
2. To prepare broth - bring water to boil with dissolved dashi. Add sake, soy sauce, miring and salt. Simmer for 1 minute.
3. Put noodles into donburi bawls and put tempura on top. Pour on hot broth and garnish with green onions and trefoil stalks cut into 5 inch lengths.