|Hiyashi soba, veggie tempura, with some sushi and seaweed salad for good measure.|
The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com
I had heard of tempura but not hiyashi soba (cold soba noodle salad). The noodles appealed to me but not D so much, not being a cold pasta fan. The tempura I was iffy about, as 'deep fried' in my mind carried a connotation of heavy breading sopped with fat. We both learned a few things.
|Hiyashi soba, red pepper and scallion on top and dipping sauce beside|
The soba noodle salad was delicious, the dipping sauce wonderful and the bits of daikon radish added a nice zip that didn't overpower. The noodles themselves, thin, dark brown buckwheat, had a great flavour. D complemented it as 'surprisingly pleasant', and the girls delightedly slurped theirs up.
|Prepped and ready. Stove serves as counter here.|
Tempura, I learned, is not heavy breading that is deep-fried to within an inch of its life and even beyond. Tempura batter is light: you are, in fact, supposed to see some of the food's own colour peeking out through the pale batter after it's done. We tried vegetable (bok choi leaves, sweet potato slices, shiitake mushrooms) and seafood (shrimp, small scallops, and calamari - yes, squid, that being A's special request). Light, not at all greasy, and delicious all around. I surprised myself by liking the squid, which was much less chewy than I've experienced other times.
|Seafood tempura - delicious.|
The bok choy leaves were probably my favourite, thin and crispy in their batter with bits of dark green showing as if to say, "no, really! See? I'm healthy in here! Dark green veggies, good for you and all that!"
Tempura can be eaten both hot or cold, but we definitely preferred it hot. The batter and food had to be kept cold, so that when it hit the hot oil the temperature contrast would give it the crisp we sought. The deep frying timing took a little practice, but I got the hang of dipping pieces in the batter with chopsticks, then transferring to the hot oil and fishing them out after. Doing all of this with minimal splashing is highly recommended, just for the record.
We filled out our meal with some sushi rolls I'd picked up in town along with a bright green seaweed salad made of some sort of unidentified algae but which M, our youngest, thought delicious and ate several servings.
Dessert was a bit of a twist, I dipped banana chunks in the batter, then deep-fried those, drizzled with honey, and savoured the warm sweetness. Yum.
It was a great meal and fun family time around the table; I did find it a very busy preparation, but I'm sure that would improve as I figured out the techniques a little better. Another fun month in the kitchen! Wonder what's next?