The February 2001 Daring Cook challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged the Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She had various sources for her challenge including including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com and itsybitsyfoodies.com
Horray for a challenge where the host lives in the same hemisphere as me! After cassoulet last month and some very hot weather in Australia, I was more than ready for a challenge recipe that did not require the oven to be turned on and even included an ice bath.
I liked the idea of making my own soba noodles and looked around for a recipe. The internet is so cool. Within seconds I was watching a soba master preparing the noodles in a wonderfully traditional way. This involved 100 per cent buckwheat flour, a giant rolling stick and a special cutter. But a soba master I am not, so I decided to use an 80:20 buckwheat:wheat ratio and a pasta maker to cut the noodles. I did try some that were hand-cut but they came out very much like wet cardboard.
The other component of the challenge was tempura. I had never made it before and was nervous but it was fantastic! I followed the challenge recipe exactly, including ice water, extra ice in the batter and an ice bath. I don't have a deep fryer so I used a wok and a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.
I "tempura-ed" zucchini and sweet potato - both lightly steamed in the microwave, and firm tofu - well pressed and carefully dried. I took heed of the advice to flour the pieces before dipping them in the matter and that did help the batter to stick. I was also glad of the advice not to let the batter color too much as I think this helped it not taste overly oily.
I served the noodles cold with the traditional Mentsuyu dipping sauce. I topped them with sliced spring onion and some sushi sprinkles.