Austerity Soba

Morning, Monday!

No time to tarry.  We spoke of personal austerity measures last week, let’s talk austerity soba noodles.  Wait.  Disclaimers are important.  Here it is.  This is not meant to be a uber authentic, precise way of going about soba noodles. It’s just my way.  Throw no stones!

This is what I turn to when I need something cheap, fast, good, filling, and healthy.  So..basically, it’s like, the best thing ever.  Not fried chicken best, but that good-for-you kind of best.

I like to cook my soba noodles in a light broth – definitely with some kombu seaweed (the sturdier fellow to the right), maybe with some wakame (little flaky guys to the left), and most likely with some bonito (fish flakes!).

Kombu is an awesome way to make a vegetarian broth in less than 20 minutes, without any mucking around, chopping, or that weird onion-y/mushroom brown taste.

(Why is vegetable broth sooo gross??)

A 4-6 inch strip will flavor about a small pot of water.  I was taught to soak it before cooking it, but I have since omitted that part and just give the kombu a quick rinse before chucking it in the water, and letting it simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Laziness.  You could just stop here with the broth, it’s totally fine.  Or you could add some wakame during the last minute or two.

If you’re going balls to the wall, add some bonito flakes (katsuoboshi) and let them steep for a few before you scoop them out.  I have bonito around for the cats.  They go nutty for it.  (Say it.  Crazy cat lady.)

Most of the time, I find scooping to be more work than I am looking for.  CHEAT: Just use these little packets of instant dashi broth instead of all the bits above, or in conjunction with the kombu.  It’s definitely much saltier (and has MSG for those of you who care), but sometimes you just have to pick and chose your battles.  85% of the time I choose instant. A teaspoon of the instant in a boiling pot of water will do you.

Once you’ve got your broth worked out, in go your soba noodles.  Different soba noodle brands have varying amounts of buckwheat, with the percentages usually listed in the ingredients.  Buckwheat is a great source of B1 and B2, and also, like soy, is a complete protein. Yeah.  I find 100% to be way too gritty (but perfect for you celiacs) – most are about 70% buckwheat, with wheat flour to sort of smooth it all out.  This brand below (Takao-no-men??) is what I’ve been using recently, as it comes in packs of 10 (cheaper!) and has decent flavor and texture.

You’ll find that other brands may have slightly finer noodles, and texture – go forth and try, and then tell me about them, please.  Also, ah hem, I’m sorry but this is important.  I forbid you to buy these from a regular supermarket – Asian markets only, and your noodles must come from Japan.  Whole Foods doesn’t count, people.

(Sidenote: Can I just say I have been led horribly astray by these particular noodles by Hakubaku? (Australian.)  I think it was the large lettering proclaiming it organic.  Also, it says that it is no.1 in Japan.  Which is just not freaking possible. At a measly 30% buckwheat, and flabby, flabby texture, I call that a lie.  Learn from my mistakes, I beg of you!)

Throw in your soba and cook until done, roughly five minutes, but it may depend on your particular brand.  Test a strand as you go.  As soon as your noodles are done, scoop them out of the pot and rinse them sort of vigorously under cold water.  This stops the cooking, but also will give your soba noodles this great toothsome texture.  Drain them, and you are ready for the fun garnishing part.

At my laziest, I pour a little light sesame oil and soy sauce on top of the noodles and give them a quick stir.

This Namo Shoyu (soy sauce) that I’ve been using makes other soy sauces seem like a mean and terrible joke.  Please use this, it will make all the difference.  (Whole Foods is allowed on this one.)

A generous sprinkle of sesame seeds or furikake, and I’m all set.  Slurp.

Feeling more ambitious?

1. Pan fry some firm tofu to go on top.  This Deborah Madison recipe for caramelized golden tofu is so good and so fast.

2. The leftover broth that we cooked the soba in?  Add in a spoonful or two of miso and you have an accompanying soup.  I like a dash of grated ginger as well.

3. That gigantic piece of kombu left in the pot can be cut up and incorporated in your soba for some extra something something.  Or you can cut it up and mix with a little sesame oil and maybe some avocado chunks for a quick little side salad.

Here’s to having a great week – eat up!

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