Monday, February 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Soba Noodles and Tempura Veggies


This was my first ever Daring Cooks challenge. It's something I decided to participate in as yet another way to increase my prowess in the kitchen and WOW did I challenge myself this month!

This month's challenge was hosted by Lisa from Blueberry Girl, and she chose to challenge everyone to a Japanese treat: Cold Soba Noodle Salad and...


I don't eat very much fried food and when I do, it's almost certainly at a restaurant because I'm terrified of deep frying anything. I chose to do veggies because I don't really like shrimp and don't really trust the fish in Ohio since we're nowhere near an ocean.

The other side of this challenge was the cold soba noodle salad. Here's where I absolutely shined. I just discovered Heidi Swanson's Otsu recipe while we were on Maui and it absolutely swept me off my feet! A few months ago I stocked up on soba noodles from an asian foods market and I haven't had the chance to use them, so here was my chance!! For the record, at the asian food market in Ohio, 48 ounces of soba noodles were $3.99; on Maui at Whole Foods, 8 ounces of soba noodles were $4. Holy high cost of living...and Whole Foods prices. This dish is spicy, so leave out the cayenne if you don't want the heat. It's veggies and pan-fried tofu mixed with the noodles and a delicious spicy ginger sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This is a recipe that is DEFINITELY worth giving the time of day.

Anyway, back to the tempura...I was so happy to learn how to do this! My batter wasn't too thick so they didn't come out as breaded as your traditional tempura veggies, but I liked them that way. Again, I generally steer clear of deep fried anything (except poop...that story later) but it's a good kitchen skill to have and if I do eat fried stuff, tempura is always the way to go.

I loved the crispiness of the batter, which you get from keeping it on ice. My sweet potatoes needed to be blanched first, because they were still very starchy and uncooked. So either make sure you blanch your potatoes or slice them very very very thin so they cook through. The mushroom and asparagus were to die for. For dipping, I simply mixed some Bragg's Aminos with Sriracha sauce but they would be even better with a sweet and sour sauce (I'm posting a recipe anyway even though we didn't make it).

Tempura Veggies (this recipe came directly from the Daring Cooks forums)
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables:
  • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
  • Assorted fresh mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  1. Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
  3. Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
  4. Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
  5. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce


  • 1/2 cup water (125 ml)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (60 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup (45 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry (15 ml) (sub mirin)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (15 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil (2 ml) (sub sriracha chili sauce)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water (22 ml)
  1. Combine all sauce ingredients except cornstarch solution in a medium-size saucepan. Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens. Set aside.

Are there any cooking techniques that you want to try out? Have you ever made tempura anything? What was your experience with it??

Peace, Love & Bagels,

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