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Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl.  She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura.  She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.

Although in my fourth month as a Daring Baker, this is my first Daring Cooks challenge!  I figured that since I also like to cook, it would be good to challenge myself in that department, especially since I feel more comfortable with baking.

Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

I was really excited about this challenge because I love tempura and Japanese food in general, but hadn’t ever tried to actually make either of these dishes.  Let’s face it: I most likely wouldn’t have tried tempura on my own because deep frying is NOT something I ever contemplate attempting.

Anyway, despite my excitement, I didn’t actually complete this challenge until last night!  Tsk!  It took me a long time, too…I don’t know why I am SO SLOW in the kitchen.

But I did it. 

The first thing I did was prepare the veggies so that they could chill in the fridge while I worked on the soba salad.  I blanched sweet potato slices, which is something I’d never done before, then cut the broccoli, and washed the cremini mushrooms.

spicy dipping sauce and soba salad

Next, I boiled the soba noodles for 5 minutes, then submerged them in ice water to stop the cooking process and prevent them from sticking to each other.  Meanwhile, I made the spicy dipping sauce which contains green onions, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, vegetable oil, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.  So easy because you just put all the ingredients into a bowl and shake it up!  I also made a little omelet to cut into strips for a topping.

Finally, it was tempura time.  Yiiiikes.  This is exactly how I had things set up: oil heating in a small deep saucepan with thermometer on the stove, tempura batter in an ice bath, flour, and veggies at the ready.

Tempura station

The process was simple enough: lightly coat a veggie in flour, dip it in the batter, then fry it in the oil (320F).  I had a couple of problems, though.  The temperature of the oil kept getting either too hot or too cold, so I guess I maybe need to get used to frying things. :)

mushrooms, mushrooms!

The other problem was a silly mistake.  The veggies kept coming out without any batter, and then I realized it was because I only added half the amount of flour and cornstarch that was called for!  I used a 1/4 cup scoop to measure because the 1/2 cup didn’t fit in the cornstarch container.  Doh!  Anyway, I added more of the flours to the batter, and all was well.

broccoli, mushrooms, sweet potatoes

With as scary as frying was for me, I was sure I’d never make tempura again.  But then I tried it.  Sooo delicious!  Who knew I could make something that tasted like it was from a Japanese restaurant?  The veggies were all the perfect consistency under the lightly crispy batter.  And the salad and sauce were fantastic!  Thankfully no one was there because I’m pretty bad with chopsticks and all out terrible when it comes to using them with noodles.

Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

I was originally planning to have a little Japanese dinner party with this meal, but am glad I didn’t because it would have made me really nervous.  Now I feel like I could have one after all, and would like to try frying shrimp, other veggies, and fruit!

It sure made a mess, but I’m glad that I completed this challenge.  Thanks to Lisa for choosing this yummy meal!  :)  You can find her recipes with step-by-step instructions here.