Happy New Year everyone! This is my first blog post for 2013 but unfortunately I don’t have a great deal to share as yet. Not much exciting has been coming out of my kitchen in the last couple of weeks other than a wee bit of Christmas baking. For those not living in Perth, we’ve been going through some very hot weather here.
It’s not unusual for Christmas Day to hit 39 or 40 degrees (heck, it’s a tradition!) but the temperature just hasn’t dropped over the subsequent days. On top of the heat, we’ve been hit with considerable humidity which we aren’t used to. New Year’s Eve was a windless, sticky night which quite possibly saved me from drinking too much alcohol!
The hot weather has meant that my desire to cook and eat has diminished considerably. We’ve been utilising our local fish and chips shop a fair bit and adding some salad to the equation for most dinners. I’ve also adopted the Japanese summer diet which usually involves cold noodles and light salads. Snow cones have become a daily fixture as well thanks to my beloved Thermomix.
Speaking of Japanese cold noodles, my local Asian grocer has brought in a huge range which has pleased me no end. There’s the usual buckwheat ‘soba’ noodles, cold udon and green tea noodles (cha soba) to name but a few. I’m looking forward to having some cold ramen as well (hiyashi chuuka). At the moment, my hankering for cold noodles is timely as the Japanese customarily have noodles at New Year (toshi koshi soba) to send off the previous year and welcome the new. Noodles are a symbol of longevity in many Asian cultures.
Other than being wonderfully refreshing in the relentless heat, cold noodles can be paired up with many ingredients to make a complete meal. At the moment I like topping my noodles with natto (fermented soy bean) and slices of cucumber but I might try some poached chicken pieces for my hubby for dinner one night. I’ll no doubt post more recipes for cold noodle in the coming months.
I recall major supermarkets stocking Japanese soba noodles so if you fancy trying some, you just need to boil up a batch of noodles for about five minutes or to liking. The accompanying soup is usually a blend of dashi stock, soy, mirin and sugar and kept in fridge to chill. I tend to use the pre-blended soup sold at grocers so if you’d like to go on the hunt for some too, ask for Japanese ‘men tsuyu’ or ‘soba tsuyu’.
While the noodle is boiling, prepare an ice bath so the cooked noodles can be cooled down immediately to stop them cooking further. This process also removes a lot of the starchiness. One the hot cooked noodles are drained, place in the ice bath and allow to cool completely. If you plan on eating right away, you may need to replace the water and ice cubes to get the noodles chilled. Otherwise, you can drain the noodles and place in the fridge to chill, until ready to serve. Ideally the noodles should be stored on something like a sushi mat in a container so excess water can drain. It’s not super important though.
To serve, just place some noodles in a bowl and pour over the chilled soup. Add your favourite ingredients and enjoy :) Today I had some lovely sweet, cooked chestnuts (kuri kinton) to enjoy after my noodles. It’s a typical treat to have during the Japanese New Year’s (it’s celebrated for three days) so I was super stoked to find some at my Japanese grocer. A great start to 2013 :) Wishing you all a fantastic New Year too!