Summer Slurp Series, Pt. 1: Nikumiso Udon
Summer Slurp Series, Pt. 2: Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Ramen)
The one (and only) thing that I miss about the disgustingly humid temperatures in Tokyo is the arrival of cold noodle dishes on menus everywhere. During the hot months of June through September, I would convince myself that I deserved a daily reward of a big bowl of cold noodles for surviving each hot day. There are many hiyashi-men (cold noodle) dishes, but the most common ones are zaru soba, somen, nikumiso udon, and hiyashi chuka.
The third installment in Japanify’s Summer Slurp Series introduces cha-soba.
"Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it. Don't wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or... ordering the cha-soba instead of the regular soba."
- Agent Cooper, Twin Peaks
Okay, I added that last part. But I am convinced Dale Cooper would count indulging in cha-soba (green tea soba) as an unplanned present.
Nothing is different from how one prepares regular soba (buckwheat noodles) and cha-soba. But knowing that cha-soba is not an everyday event is enough to want to plate it with special care. Cha-soba is an unplanned indulgence, considering that a 7 oz. package of cha-soba is $2.99 compared to a 9 oz package of regular soba for $2.49.
In Japan, cha-soba is for festive occasions, or as my husband put it, "When I feel like eating something different." The process of making cha-soba involves adding green tea powder to the buckwheat flour used for the noodles. This results in strands of wasabi-colored noodles, a hint of sweetness and green tea aromas. As much as I'd like to think that the green tea also contributes in creating a healthier soba, I doubt that enough green tea is used to have that effect. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter because it glistens with green gorgeousness and smells like a spa.
1 package of cha-soba
2 green onions
Dab of wasabi
One sheet of nori cut into thin strips
Tsuyu (dipping sauce; my recipe here)
1. Make tsuyu or use the store-bought kind.
2. Slice up the green onions and cut nori. Squirt a dab of wasabi onto a plate.
3. Follow the instructions for boiling time on the cha-soba pack.
4. Prepare an ice bath for the noodles.
5. When the noodles have boiled, pass cold running water through them.
6. Dunk the noodles in a collander into the ice bath. Leave for a few minutes until the noodles are very cold.
7. Using your hands, place a tangled ball of noodles on the zaru (bamboo sieve). Serve the noodles on the sieve. I have a flat bamboo slat sieve that I place over a shallow bowl smaller than the sieve.
Green tea powder and cha-soba.
8. In a small bowl, pour 1/2 a cup of tsuyu. Add noodles and top with onions, nori and dissolve wasabi in the tsuyu.
Slurp and enjoy.
Kayoko happened to give me the perfect dessert for my cha-soba yesterday--Toraya green tea yokan. When cut up into sixths, these confections look like a Donald Judd sculpture. This was an unplanned present bursting with coincidence and I was more than happy to surrender.
I opened with a quote from my favorite television series of all time--Twin Peaks. Discussing green noodles and unplanned gifts makes me wonder how amazing a Japanese cooking show directed by David Lynch would be. Imagine it now: A slow push in slowly on a glistening hunk of toro with a deafening soundtrack... or a perfectly silent and still overhead shot of a teishoku set.
Mr. Lynch: Allow me pitch this idea to you over some cha-soba.
For die-hard Twin Peaks fans like myself, see The Unofficial Twin Peaks Food List for all foods mentioned (and sometimes obsessed over) in the series.