The classic zarusoba (cold soba) is served with a dipping sauce, grated daikon radish, wasabi and scallions. Nothing more. It is simple and straightforward.
To eat the noodles, combine the condiments and stir with chopsticks. Dip the noodles about a third of the way into the dipping sauce with your chopsticks and then slurp. This might take a little practice; the idea is not to overwhelm the noodles with the sauce. After you have finished the noodles, you can dilute the dipping sauce with sobayu, the nourishing cooking broth of the noodles, and drink it like a soup. This is a ritual practiced at soba noodle shops.
When nuts are in season, I add them to the dipping sauce. Try using ground nuts or seeds such as pecans, peanuts or sesame seeds.
The dashi recipe below uses a combination of three umami-packed ingredients. It is versatile and can easily be made vegan by omitting the bonito flakes and adding an extra dried shiitake mushroom. Make sure to save your hydrated kombu and shiitake mushrooms, as you can reuse them to make a second batch of dashi.
Make the plain sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the dashi and tare and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. Once cooled, divide the sauce among eight small bowls.
Prepare the walnuts: Place the walnuts in a small skillet, then cook over medium heat until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer the nuts to a plate and let cool to room temperature. Transfer the walnuts to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Sprinkle in the sugar and pulse to combine. Scrape out the ground walnuts and divide into four small dishes.
To serve, divide the noodles among four serving plates and serve each plate with two bowls of plain sauce and a dish of walnuts. Serve individual dishes of radishes, scallions and wasabi on the side. Use the aromatics to flavor one dish of sauce and the walnuts to flavor the other dish of sauce, adding each ingredient to your taste.
Bonito, Kombu and Shiitake Dashi
In a medium saucepan, combine the filtered water with the kombu and mushroom. Let soak at room temperature for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
Place the pan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Just before the liquid begins to simmer at the edges, remove the kombu and dried shiitake mushroom; save the kombu and mushroom to make more dashi or for another use.
Once the liquid comes to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and add the bonito flakes without stirring. Let steep, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. While it sits, set a sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with damp cheesecloth or a damp paper towel.
Pour the liquid through the prepared sieve and use immediately.
Combine the mirin and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and swirl the pan until sugar dissolves completely. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the soy sauce; cook until it starts to simmer, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and let the tare cool before using.
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