One of our favourite go to meals for summer is a nice cold bowl of soba noodles.
In Japanese it is called Zaru Soba ざるそば and the best part about this recipe is that you can make it in under 10 minutes.
What is Zaru Soba?
Zaru Soba (ざる蕎麦) is a traditional chilled noodle dish made from buckwheat flour and served with soy sauce-based dipping sauce called Tsuyu (つゆ).
The word zaru means “a strainer” in Japanese and the name of the dish was derived from the way the noodles are served over a bamboo strainer during the Edo Period.
We love this recipe from justonecookbook.
- 300g dried soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) (100g per person)
- 6 Tbsp mentsuyu/tsuyu (concentrated noodle soup base) (recipe below)
- 2 cups iced water
For the Toppings/Garnish
For the Mentsuyu (Concentrated Noodle Soup Base)
- ¼ cup sake
- ½ cup mirin (I usually add an additional 1 Tbsp)
- ▢½ cup soy sauce
- ▢1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (2.5 cm x 2.5 cm)
- ▢½-1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (they are fluffy, so pack it when you measure; recommend max amount for more prominent katsuo/bonito flavor)
To Make the Mentsuyu (Concentrated Noodle Soup Base)
- In a medium saucepan, add the sake and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Let the alcohol evaporate for a few seconds.
- Add the soy sauce and mirin (I add an extra 1 Tbsp mirin for my family’s preference).
- Add the piece of kombu and the dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi).
- Bring it to a boil and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool completely. Strain the mentsuyu and set aside.
- You can keep this soup base in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to a month.
To Boil the Soba Noodles
- Boil a lot of water in a large pot. Unlike pasta, you do not add salt to the cooking water. Add the dried soba noodles to the boiling water, distributing them around the pot in a circular pattern to separate the noodles from each other. Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions (each brand is slightly different). Stir the noodles once in a while so they don’t stick to each other. The noodles are done when they are just tender; do not overcook.
- Before you drain the noodles, reserve 1 to 1½ cups (for 4 servings) of the cooking water called “sobayu” (this you can mix with some of the mentsuyu sauce to make a broth.)
- Drain the soba noodles in a sieve and rinse them under cold running water to get rid of the excess starch. This is a very important step to keep the noodles from sticking to each other.
- Shake the sieve to drain the water completely. Then, transfer the noodles to a large bowl of iced water. Chill the noodles for 30 seconds, drain well, and set aside.
- To serve the noodles, place bamboo sieves or mats over individual plates (to catch the draining water from the noodles). Place one serving of soba noodles on each mat and garnish with the shredded nori seaweed on top.
- You will need 90 ml (⅜ cup) of dipping sauce per person, for a total of 360 ml (1½ cups) of dipping sauce for 4 servings. Since the sauce-to-water ratio for dipping sauce is roughly 1 to 3, combine 1 part (90 ml or ⅜ cup) mentsuyu (concentrated soup base) and 3 parts (270 ml or 1⅛ cups) iced water in a measuring cup and check the taste. If it’s salty, add more water. If it’s too dilute, add more mentsuyu.
- Put the chopped green onions, grated daikon and wasabi on individual small plates and serve with the soba noodles and individual cups of dipping sauce.
Enjoy it whilst cold. It is also common for the cold soba noodles to be served with your choice of vegetable or shrimp tempura. Personally I love it as is.