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 :)
26 Comments on “Kake Soba with Hon Tsuyu Broth”
Hi, I’m so happy to find a recipe for Hon Tsuyu from scratch. I have only been directed to the Kikkoman bottles of concentrated Hon Tsuyu at my local Korean grocery store and they include MSG and high fructose corn syrup. I do have one quick question: in your ingredient list, it’s hard to read due to the spacing, is that one (quantity) 2 inch by 2 inch piece of Kombu or is it 12 (twelve) pieces of 2 inch kombu? Thanks in advance!
I’m so glad this recipe will be useful to you! It looks like the recipe app mucked up when I switched over to a new recipe plug-in, so I’ll have to fix this. Sorry it was hard to read! It’s definitley one piece of Kombu measure at 2 x 2 inches. Let me know if you have any other questions, and let me know how the recipe goes! Hope you love it :)
I truly admire your adventuresome nature. It is so fun to try totally new recipes. I, too, am not familiar with all the ingredients. But let’s just say you nailed it!
Hey Peter – thanks so much for the lovely compliment! You’re right. Trying new recipes and the thrill that comes with a successful result just reminds us why we cook!
This is an absolute stunner! I love to branch out of my comfort zone too, but you’ve really gone all out here! We have some Asian grocers close to my house so I’m going to print out the ingredients and see if I can source them. Right now, I’m wishing you were my next door neighbor!
Thanks so much, Lisa! Haha, I definitely wish I could whip you up a bowl! I’m glad to hear that you’re close to some Asian grocers, though. Please let me know if you make these at home! I’d love to hear about the experience and see photos! It’s an exciting time :)
This is amazing! Its a dish that I love to have at restaurants and just hadn’t mastered trying to make it at home…. with all of your tips I can’t wait to try to have this “real DEAL” meal at home!
Hey Michele! Thank you so much. Please let me know how it goes when you make it at home – I’d love to hear about it and see pictures. I’m sure you’ll love the experience :)
These bowls are almost too pretty to eat :) Definitely more sophisticated than my only experience with Ramen which was in a college hot pot, LOL
What are the white and pink swirled slices? I’m not familiar with those at all!
Hey Jill – haha, I agree! But once that smell enters the face area, you know you can’t not dig in ;)
The white and pink swirly things are kamaboko. They are the fish cakes I mention. They add such a nice pop!
I’m so happy to see this come together for you Dana. I’m glad I could help, but you rocked this. It’s gorgeous, and you can tell that the flavours will be outstanding. I’m happy to have another convert to the world of scratch-made dashi stock. Thanks so much for all the kind and incredible things you said about me and my work. It’s food blogs yours and food lovers like you that inspired me and made me so passionate to begin with.
Thanks, Sean! I’m happy to be one of those converts and hopefully this posts creates even more converts. Thanks for your inspiration and guidance, as always!
Dana! This is seriously one of the most helpful recipe posts I’ve come across. (Definitely akin to the wonderful Sean aka Diversivore’s blog, which I agree with you when when you say he’s so knowledgeable.) I find that a lot of recipes North American-ize noodle bowls but this looks just like the kind you find at hole-in-the-wall places. Plus your little white and pink swirly things are just plain cute. ;)
Hey Cassie, I’m so glad that you found this post helpful! That makes me so happy. Thanks for the wonderful compliments – those hold-in-the-wall places are always so great, aren’t they? I used to frequent one back in Canada. It was a dim sum joint and it was the best damn dim sum I’ve ever had in my life. Sadly the building it was situated in was old, ignored by the city, and it collapsed. So the place is really now a literal hole in the wall. LOL :|
Oh, and thanks! That’s kamaboko, they are a type of fish cake. They are really mild in flavor, resembling imitation crab you buy at the supermarket. It adds a nice little touch to the dish – especially aesthetically! I always thought they looked like a fun little eraser we’d used to use in grade school.
Hey Dana, I think your right about food. It’s so much more than just survival, it’s about family and friends. It’s about understanding cultures by experiencing them. I remember when I was in the Philippines where I was invited to join a local family for dinner. They served me a traditional meal which I loved. I felt like I understood them, there culture, and they’re food more after the fact. It was an incredible experience. I now love corn chowder with an intensity that is boarder line worrisome. On a completely different note, I’m loving your photo’s in this post. There’s just something deliciously balanced about them. Truly, they’re great!
Hey Jared – that sounds like such an amazing experience in the Philippines! You know, you need to blog a corn chowder recipe now ;)
I’m glad you love the photos! Japanese soups always look so artistic and I didn’t want to skimp out on any of it. Thanks for the compliment!
This dish… WOW! Truly something special. What an inspiring post about what you can achieve when you push out of your comfort zone :)
Love your nod to Sean! His blog and food knowledge is a breath of fresh air into our blogging community. I have learned so much from him…. and BBB definitely going to use this!!
Thanks so much, Meaghan! Hopefully this post encourages at least a few people to step into unfamiliar territories.
Sean is most certainly a breath of fresh air – and the fact that he’s so grounded and approachable certainly helps!
Dana, this definitely brings me back to my time in Japan. I think you’ve captured the dish well! Sourcing the unknown ingredients can be difficult but definitely worth it. I still have no idea what to do with most greens in the Asian markets, but this might work with some of them, too.
Thanks, Janet! Yeah, if someone has never sourced for such ingredients it can also be pretty intimidating. But once you get your feet wet, it’s nothing but inspiration and fulfillment!
What a beautiful dish, it’s totally right up my alley. If we’re ever in the same city, me must share a meal and a glass of wine! And I second what you said about Sean. He’s so knowledgeable and he’s going his own way by creating totally unique content. I love his blog, too!
Thanks so much, Justine!
I agree – dinner and wine is a must! It’ll happen one day – the stars just HAVE to align for that.
And yes – Sean better remember us when he takes over the blogging world! ;)
This dish is something, Dana! I am super impressed! I love Japanese culture so much and you did an amazing job creating this kake soba! I agree on everything you said about Sean, he really brought a whiff of fresh, unusual and inspiring air in the food blog world! Love the look of this dish, love your pictures, but most of all love the flavors you managed to build in it!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, Nicoletta! It’s definitely a bit more long-winded than most of my posts, but things needed to be said. Haha.