Takashi’s Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi is a new cookbook from 10 Speed Press containing Yagihashi’s exacting and precise recipes for Japanese noodles. The chapters are broken up by noodle type: ramen, soba, udon, somen, Asian noodles (like Southeast Asian rice noodles), pasta and appetizers. That “pasta” category contains fusiony inventions like potato gnocchi in lemon butter sauce with sea urchin–no wonder, since Yagihashi has worked in American, French and Japanese kitchens.
On to dinner! I decided to test Yagihashi’s recipes for dashi–the austere, umami-rich kelp and bonito stock that is then doctored with soy sauce and mirin to make soba broth–and one of the simplest soba recipes: wakame (seaweed) soba. I didn’t make my own soba noodles, as Yagihashi suggests. I’ll leave that to people more patient than me, or at least to a night other than Wednesday.
Kombu, soaking away
You start your dashi by soaking several sheets of kombu (kelp)—which can be found at Kalustyan’s, Whole Foods or Sunrise Mart—for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight. I soaked it for about three hours. Dashi is incredibly simple, much more so than chicken or beef stock. Beside kombu, the only other ingredient is bonito flakes (a fish in the mackerel family, aged and dried for a year and then shaved into flakes), which you can find at any good Japanese market, like Sunrise Mart. The combination of bonito and kombu turns out to be the most umami-rich combination known, a fact I learned from the Umami Information Center, which actually does exist.
I followed the book’s dashi recipe, below, with one small exception. Everything I’ve read and learned says to remove the kelp just before the water boils. This recipe instructs you to let it boil and then remove the kelp. I erred on the side of caution and removed the kelp just before it boils, and I’d suggest you do the same.
Yield: 2 quarts
Adapted from Takashi’s Noodles
2 large pieces kombu, approximately 10 by 4 inches each, gently wiped with a paper towel
2 quarts plus 1 cup water
3 cups packed katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
In a large stockpot, combine the kombu and water, and let it soak at room tempurature for at least 20 minutes. You can soak longer, too, even overnight, which will allow the kombu to release more flavor. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the kombu and decrease the heat so that liquid is simmering. Add the bonito flakes, and gently mix into the liquid; don’t stir vigorously. Simmer for 10 minutes longer, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
To make the dashi into soba broth, you simply add 1/2 cup Japanese soy sauce and 1/2 cup mirin for every 5 cups of dashi. Bring that mixture to a boil, and add 1/2 cup enoki mushrooms. My local Japanese market only had fresh shitakes yesterday, no enokis, so I stemmed and sliced the shitakes, and used them instead. It worked just fine, although enokis would be more delicate.
Now that the broth’s done, here’s the recipe for Wakame Soba. It’s incredibly simple, and the recipe worked perfectly for a comforting and healthy dinner. Wakame can be found at Sunrise Mart or Whole Foods.
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from Takashi’s Noodles
3 tablespoons dried wakame
3 cups hot water
16 snow peas, trimmed
1/4 red onion
14 onces soba noodles (fresh or dried)
4 cups hot soba broth
In a bowl, cover the wakame with the hot water, and let sit 10 minutes. Drain well, and set aside.
Prepare an ice bath, and bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the snow peas in the salted boiling water for 1 minutes, then submerge them in the ice bath. Cool, drain, and cut in half.
Thinly slice the red onion into rounds, about 1/2 cup. In a small bowl, cover the onion with cold water for 5 minutes. Drain well.
Bring a pot of unsalted water to boil. Cook the soba noodles in the water until al dente, about 1 minute for fresh noodles, or 4 or 5 minutes for dried. Drain well.
To serve, divide the noodles among 4 bowls, and top each with 1 cup hot broth. Garnish each with one-fourth of the snow peas, red onion and wakame, and stir gently.