I LOVE soba noodles! When I found these green tea noodles at my local Asian Market I was very inspired to take my soba noodle bowl creations to a whole other level.
Now with all these ingredients, and two small kids, sometimes I cheat and use a ready made sauce. Especially when I haven’t made the sauce before and don’t want to risk ruining the meal. So for this version I whipped up some Mentsuyu using a bottle of Memmi (which can be turned it Mentsuyu/Tempura Sauce/Soup Base etc. by using different ratios of hot or cold water). I didn’t read the label very well and realized later that there was in MSG in it. YUCK. It tasted great but I try to avoid MSG at all costs! It is diluted with quite a lot of water but will try to find a brand that doesn’t use MSG next time. Or heck maybe I will get around to make some from scratch when I make my next Zaru Soba inspired noodle bowl.
This is the recipe I will try by none other than my favorite Japanese recipe blog Just One Cookbook check it: Mentsuyu From Scratch
When I get around to making it I shall post of course.
Now Zaru Soba is usually a pretty simple affair. Maybe because most of the work goes into making the above mentioned dipping sauce. Or perhaps it’s just so perfect in it’s simplicity that it doesn’t need much more than some green onions, grated daikon and/or sesame seeds which usually accompany the noodles.
But I love VEGETABLES and I love FISH… and I am ALWAYS HUNGRY! So I wanted to add more protein and veg to this to make it a SUMO SIZED MEAL!
What ya need:
- Green tea soba noodles cooked, drained, rinsed, cooled. (regular Buckwheat soba noodles are great too!)
- Memmi / Mentsuyu (unless you want to go full Sumo and make your Mentsuyu from scratch – Veg people make a different sauce – ideas below!)
- Scallions thinly sliced
- Marinated Sable fish (garlic, honey, miso paste, sesame oil to taste then put fish in fridge coated with marinade for however long you have. I only did 20 minutes because I forgot to get to it earlier. But a few hours or overnight would be even better. Veg people leave out – could substitute spinach gomae)
- 1 head cauliflower (cleaned and cut up into little trees)
- Asparagus (a bunch cleaned, snapped and cut into 1/3s)
- Toasted white sesame seeds (get a Japanese brand)
- Bonito Flakes (Veg people leave this out – could substitute nori)
- Avocados sliced (as many as you want!)
Roast cauliflower with oil on cookie sheet in a preheated oven at 425-450F until getting browned and golden. About 25-40 minutes depending how large the pieces are.
Cook green tea noodles per package. Drain, rinse with cold water. Set aside. When you go to plate the bowls (odd phrasing) you can rinse with a little more water to separate the noodles again. Just make sure to really shake off all the water so your bowl isn’t soggy.
Cook marinated fish in oil in a preheated medium heat pan. Skin side down for 3-5 minutes. Then flip for a nother few minutes depending on size of fillet. You can cut one in half to make sure all the way done. The flesh will flake nicely. Cool. Debone. Set aside. NOTE: turn on your stove top fan, the sauce will make it smoke!
Cook asparagus on a preheated medium/high pan with oil. Sear til browning, toss around a bit. Carefully check a piece after 4-5 minutes. You want crispy yet tender. Set aside.
Slice scallions. Slice avocados. Make your Mentsuyu (follow directions on Memmi bottle for how much cold water to add). Get your accoutrements at the ready: sesame seeds and bonito flakes! You could also chop up some nori if so desired.
Noodles in bowl. Arrange all your bits & pieces as attractively as you can around and on top. Put a nice amount of Mentsuyu in a little dipping dish.
Eat by taking little chopstick fulls of noodles and bits & pieces, dip into the Mentsuyu for each bite and enjoy!
If you are super lazy you can pour sauce on top. But I advise against this as it will make your noodles soggy after a while. And the flavour is far nicer if each bite is freshly dipped. The sauce will soak into the bowl and kind of lose itself.
So it may take a while to get used to eating noodles this way, but it’s well worth it. By the last few bites, go ahead and pour the sauce on the remnants and it every last little morsel.
VEGETARIANS: You can skip the fish and the bonito flakes. You can also make a Mentsuyu-esque dipping sauce with veggie stock boiled with kombu, soy sauce, maybe some dried mushrooms, sake and honey til you like the balance of savoury and sweet. Drain and cool. I will try a veggie version down the line and give exact amounts once I have sorted it out. But I would think these flavours would give you something equally tasty.
And/or you could probably make a veggie version of Ponzu by switching out the dashi for veggie stock. And maybe play around with some other veggies that pair well with lemon as this is a citrus-y dipping sauce. That said asparagus, avocado and cauliflower will still be great as would some cucumber, soft tofu and nori.