03 September 2007

Tempura Soba (with how-to)

(Tempura Noodle Soup) Part 2 of the cook-your-cravings series (Japanese edition) will be about Tempura. It's not (yet) well-documented but I adore prawns and struggled with getting over my allergy to them just so I could eat them. However, I still have to be very careful preparing them or my fingers will swell to the size of sausages (mmm, sausage).

Instead of making Tendon (Tempura Rice Bowl), I've decided to make something I've only had once in my childhood, which is Tempura Soba. I remember not liking it too much, but maybe if I make it myself, I can control the ingredients and the taste. (Instructions follow)
Tempura Soba
I bought jumbo shrimp (oxymoron) as prawns were over-the-top expensive, but if you have the money, it'll be a good purchase. Take the head off with a sharp knife, and if your prawns are fresh, don't cut all the way at the dorsum of the head ("nape" if you will), because you might be able to get the digestive system (the sandy, often dark dorsal "vein") in one go when you carefully pull the head. With your fingers, peel away all but the last segment of the shell, taking the swimmerets (pleopods) with it. With a knife, cut out the tip of the tail (don't really know why, but one book says it's to keep the "moisture" in. Huh?). Make several small incisions on the ventral side of the shrimp (the inside of the curve) to straighten it and to prevent its curling while cooking. If you haven't already, make a very shallow cut on the dorsum and pull out the intestine in one piece. Yay! Prepapred prawns.

Make sure the prawns are dry before battering, patting in between paper towels if needed. The prep needs one plate of plain flour, tempura batter, and the deep 180°C (360°F) oil, no hotter or the tempura will be brown and tough. Tempura batter is prepared by mixing 100g of packaged tempura batter mix and 160mL cold water. I used a scale for this. Mix with chopsticks (recommended as they are inefficient for mixing), or really with any tool just as long as you don't do it thoroughly and many lumps remain.

Dredge the prawns in flour, slap off the excess, and dip in the tempura batter, avoiding battering the shelled tail. Deep fry for 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels or newsprint.

I used buckwheat soba for the noodles. Not a good choice. Not that they taste bad, but their flavor was too earthy and heady, when the clean taste of the prawns should be paired off with something clean-tasting as well, like plain soba. Cook and drain the noodles in advance, place in the bowl.

The vegetables I used were sliced shitake mushrooms and carrots. This dish should really have greens ("trefoil" or maybe scallions), but none were available at the market. I blanched the carrots and mushrooms in boiling water for a minute and plunged in cold water. Set the vegetables on the cooked noodles.

To make the broth, I used ready-made Kikkoman Tempura Sauce. It has seaweed and fish extracts, just like dashi! For regular tempura sauce, dilute 1 part in 3 parts hot water. For soup base, dilute 1 part in 7 parts hot water. If you're a purist, use mirin, dashi, sugar, and soy sauce. But I found I would be paying too much to buy the individual components. Pour the hot prepared broth on the noodles and vegetables, then top with cooked tempura and serve immediately.

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