Kake Soba with Hon Tsuyu Broth
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While laying out the ingredients for this dish – most of them new to me – I couldn’t help but grin. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to pour myself into this one. This got me thinking pretty deeply about food and my passion for cooking.
It’s pretty fascinating to think about how food has evolved – not only with methods and techniques, but in how we connect with it. It’s hard to believe that there was a point in time where food was simply a means for sustainability. Food wasn’t eaten to enjoy – it was eaten to survive. Today, we have such deep emotional attachment to it. Food is love; food is fond memories of people in our lives, past and present. Food is homemade soup when you’re sick; food is how pizza fixes everything when you’ve had a rough week.
Food goes beyond the plate upon which it sits.
For me, creating a dish from scratch and experiencing the labor of love that goes with it is incredibly fulfilling, and there was something a little extra special about this Kake Soba with Hon Tsuyu Broth. If you know me well, you know that I am head over heels in love with East and Southeast Asian cuisine. So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to step out of my comfort zone and into culinary territory that I’m completely enamored with.
The aesthetic and flavor of the end result threw me into a state of euphoria. (Seriously.) It tasted just like the soba noodle soup with hon tsuyu broth I’d had at my favorite noodle bar which is, in fact, the dish that inspired me to try this one from scratch. It’s easy to replicate Ramen bowls at home because Ramen, as we’ve grown to know it in North America, is hard to botch. Our college days have given us the gift of being true Ramen creatives. Cooking with Ramen is far from threatening. But as much as I love making my Ramen bowls, I wanted to dive deeper. I wanted to create a recipe that was genuinely Japanese with no American influence whatsoever.
And it was the best thing.
Kake Soba with Hon Tsuyu Broth
If you enjoy cooking and you really appreciate a certain style of cuisine, I encourage you to immerse yourself into it. Not for the sake of being a highbrow, because nobody likes a pretentious “foodie”, but for the sake of experience and understanding; for the sake of embracing the dish as it was intended. To me, that’s just honest cooking.
My BBB (Best Blogging Buddy- I just made that up!) Sean, who runs Diversivore – a detailed and scientifically-rooted food blog that pushes readers to explore and enjoy the world of food – is extremely well-informed with East and Southeast Asian cuisine. He is always able to answer my curiosities (and with long-winded passion). When we first met, I thought he was a chef. The guy just knows his stuff, and his enthusiasm over becoming deeply involved with a dish has been tremendously inspiring to me. Instead of just thinking about how cool it would be to create these dishes from scratch, I simply do it. I’ve learned a lot since we’ve become friends, and he’s basically my personal Siri when I’m at the Korean Market. I couldn’t possibly write this profound post without giving him a well-deserved nod. And honestly, his site is totally worth checking out. He’s broken the barriers of standard food blogging and is doing something really different.
Now – onto this dish.
The grocery list.
Find an East or Southeast Asian market in your area. I was able to find everything I needed at our local Korean market. The International aisle at your *big name* supermarket will not cut it. By finding the appropriate market, you’ll find all of the essential components and you’ll more than likely be supporting a small family business. Win/Win.
Purchase the following:
- Sake (or Chinese cooking wine)
- Soy sauce (I swear by the low-sodium Kikkoman)
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes – sometimes labelled as dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna)
- Kombu (edible kelp; it can be found with the seaweed, but don’t confuse seaweed with kombu. Make sure you’re reading labels carefully.)
- Soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
- Optional toppings (fish cakes, scallions, sesame seeds, etc.)
To make this soup from scratch you start off with mentsuyu, which is a Japanese soup base used in both udon and soba noodle dishes. It’s made by simmering sake, mirin, soy sauce, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), and kombu together.
In addition to being used as a soup base (kaketsuyu) mentsuyu can also be used as a dipping soup for chilled noodles (tsuketsuyu). Keep in mind that mentsuyu is a base and is concentrated; dilute it with water before using it. The ratio of water to mentsuyu depends on how you’re using it. For my recipe here, I used 3 cups of water with 3/4 cup of mentsuyu and I think the broth turned out perfectly. It tasted just like the broth I’d had at the noodle bar! Success.
Soba noodles for life.
Soba noodles are incredibly delicious and very hearty. I do like udon, but I’ll take soba over udon any day.
Traditionally, soba noodles are served according to season; in the summer they are drained and chilled, while in winter, they are served hot with a soy-based dashi broth.
Woops. I made a winter dish as we enter a North Carolina summer.
There are several different types of hot soba dishes. Kake Soba is soba in a hot broth topped with thinly sliced scallions, and sometimes slices of kamaboko (fish cake – those beautiful white and pink spiraled garnishes). Because I’m a sucker for soft-boiled eggs in my noodle bowls, I added that as a component, as well as some blanched spinach and fried fish cakes.
And to top it off…
Extra toppings can be added to both hot and cold soba dishes and, much like the dish itself, are often chosen to reflect the season. Scallions and a soft-boiled egg are always a must for me. Other nourishing veggies are a great choice, and fish cakes, either fried or in kamaboko form (or both, if you’re like me and can’t decide!), always add a nice touch. If you’ve never tried a fish cake and are curious about he flavor – think of imitation crab. It’s mild and really quite nice!
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Get the Recipe:
Kake Soba with Hon Tsuyu Broth
- 3-3.5 oz Soba noodles
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 2 inch x2 piece of kombu
- 1 cup packed Katsuobushi
- thinly sliced scallions
- Blanched spinach, optional
- 1-2 soft boiled eggs, optional
- 4 pieces thinly sliced of kamaboko, optional
- 4 pieces of fried fish cake, optional
- 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, optional
- Pour sake into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
- Allow the alcohol evaporate for a few seconds.
- Add the mirin and the soy sauce. Stir.
- Add the kombu and katsuobushi. Stir again ensuring that all of the katsuobushi has been immersed.
- Bring it to a boil and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat; set aside and let it cool.
- While the broth cools a bit, prep your garnishes of choice and set aside.
- Once the mentsuyu is cooled, pass the mixture through a fine sieve or strainer. Press on the katsuobushi with a spatula or large spoon to get as much liquid out of it as you can.
- Pour 3/4 cup of the mentsuyu into a medium sized pot.
- Add 3 cups of water and bring to a simmer.
- In the meantime, cook your soba noodles as directed on the package.
- Once the soba noodles are ready, give them a rinse and place them in bowls.
- Carefully pour the hot broth over the the noodles.
- Add your selected garnishes.
- Enjoy :)