Saturday, January 23, 2010

Soba Maki

Time to rethink sushi.

From the Western perspective, the typical Japanese sushi is a rolled (maki) sushi made up of sushi rice, a vegetable or seafood filling, all wrapped in a sheet of toasted nori (seaweed). There is another version of maki sushi that we seldom get to see and it is one that replaces the ubiquitous sushi rice with chilled soba noodles instead. Soba (as opposed to the thicker udon noodles made from wheat flour) is a type of thin Japanese noodles that is made from buckwheat flour. Soba can be served both as a cold dish (usually in the summer months) and also hot, depending on the season in Japan.

One of the cold applications for soba is soba maki. This particular dish is very much like sushi but without the vinegared rice. It doesn't need any dipping sauce or the condiments that usually accompany sushi, as everything is already included within a single bite, which makes it unique and a true crowd pleaser at dinner parties.

Here is the list of ingredients you need to make soba maki:

Chilled soba noodles
Cucumber (cut into 3-inch strips)
Red bell pepper (mostly for color; also cut into strips)
Wasabi paste (1-2 teaspoons)
Pickled ginger (2 large pinches, chopped fine)
2 stalks Scallions (chopped fine)
Cilantro leaves (chopped fine)
Toasted sesame seeds (1-2 teaspoons)
Sweet soy sauce (2 Tablespoons)
Regular soy sauce (2 Tablespoons)
Sesame oil (1 teaspoon)
Nori sheets

Starting off, you'll need to cook the soba, which can be found in the dried form, very much like pasta. However, here you don't cook the soba until al dente like pasta but cook it all the way through. Once you determine that it is cooked, transfer the soba into a container of ice-chilled water to both stop further cooking and also to chill it. Now, in a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients together except for the nori, cucumber and bell pepper. Mix it up real well, taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more sweet soy or soy sauce.

Next, you'll need a bamboo mat used to roll sushi. Place a sheet of nori on the mat and transfer the soba mixture onto the end of the sheet that is closest to you. Add a couple of the cucumber and bell pepper slices on top of the soba and start rolling like you would with regular sushi. And that's about it. When done, cut into 1-inch segments and serve as is, no dipping sauce or condiments needed.