Friday, July 13, 2007

Jonesing for soba

Today was a perfect day for cold soba noodles for dinner. It was hot. Nothing else sounded good, and I wanted something quick and easy to make for dinner. The only ingredient I was missing was nori, but I thinly sliced a green onion and scattered that over my noodles instead.

Strange as it might sound, I've only made soba noodles one other time, and that was before I moved to Tokyo. They turned out awful because I didn't know I was supposed to pour a little cold water into the boiling pot to cool down the outside of the noodles, allowing the inside to cook better. I also didn't know I was supposed to rinse them like crazy after cooking to get rid of the starchiness and smell. The first time they turned out doughy and overcooked, and I wondered what all the hoopla was about soba. But once I got to Tokyo and ate them (or udon) fairly often, I became quite addicted. In the summer there are all sorts of cold noodle dishes you can buy already made at the grocery stores or convenience stores, so I never had to heat up my kitchen to boil water.

So, tonight I found myself alone for dinner and decided to give it a try. I had already bought nice soba noodles at Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of my craving. I also had some hontsuyu soup base that I needed for the dipping sauce and some powdered wasabi that I mixed up and added to the sauce. It turned out quite tasty, if I do say so myself! Along with the soba, I made a cucumber salad with mirin vinegar. Everything was very simple and tasted cool and refreshing.

However, I really do miss the convenience of buying prepared meals. I rarely cooked while living in Tokyo--because I didn't need to! Prepared meals were delicious and inexpensive, and usually ended up costing me less in the long run because I didn't need to buy larger quantities that got jammed into my tiny fridge and forgotten as they got shoved to the back.

I still haven't tried sushi or sashimi since leaving Japan. Somehow, I think whatever I try here will be a big disappointment. We keep getting menus in the mail and one of them was for a new sushi restaurant. When I looked at the pictures and descriptions, they sounded too much like California-style sushi. Too exotic or manipulated. Japanese sushi is very simple--fish caught the same day draped over perfectly cooked and seasoned rice. There's very little else done to sushi. Wish I had some right now.

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