On Soba Broths/Dipping Sauces

Recently, my wife asked about making a soba soup for lunch one day.  On thinking about the problem, I thought about the times I had nabeyaki udon at restaurants.  If memory serves (with respect to Chairman Kaga), it seems that the versions of nabeyaki udon that I preferred were savory and not sweet.  This occurred to me to ask, from where did this sweetness come? Upon consulting Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, I discovered that the broth (‘kake-jiru’) sweetness came from the use of mirin.  It then occurred to me to wonder if this was also true of soba dipping sauce (‘tsuke-jiru’)? Sure enough, on the following page from the broth, the tsuke-jiru had a combined mixture of sugar and mirin.

I then became curious as to how other chefs like Matsuhisa-sama, and Iron Chef Morimoto would prepare these items.  And so I managed to generate the following comparisons re-scaled so as make the relative salt/sweetness comparisons easier to appreciate:

Noodle Broth/Kake-jiru
Sources:
Nobu West, p. 205
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, p.310
Morimoto: Mastering The Art Of Japanese Home Cooking, p. 195
Nobu………………..Tsuji…………………..Morimoto
2 c dashi……………2  c + 1 T + 1 t dashi……2 c dashi
3 T light soy sauce…..2 1/4 t light soy sauce…..2 T + 2 t light soy sauce
2 T sake…………….1 1/2 t mirin……………2 T+ 2 t mirin
1/2 t salt…………..1/2 t salt
……………………1 1/2 t sugar
……………………2 1/4 t dark soy sauce

For the kake-jiru, it seemed to me that sweetest version belonged to Tsuji followed by Iron Chef Morimoto and then Nobu Matsuhisa being the least sweet.

So just before picking up my wife and in-laws at the train station (evening arrival from a day trip to NYC), I  made Matsuhisa-sama’s kake-jiru for a quick meal.  To the ‘noodle bowl’, I added a handful of mixed greens of baby spinach, baby arugala and baby romaine.  On top of that went about 6oz of 100% buckwheat noodles, the blanched oden fishcakes (until just cooked through) and then the broth.  The broth was a perfect match for my 100% soba noodle meal!

oden soba nabe with Nobu kake-jiri

Soba Dipping Broth/Tsuke-jiru
Sources:
Nobu Now, p. 205
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, p.311
Morimoto: Mastering The Art Of Japanese Home Cooking, p. 193
Nobu………………….Tsuji…………………….Morimoto
7 oz (3/4 c + 2 T) dashi..1 c + 2 T + 2 t dashi………3/4 c dashi
3 T soy sauce………….5 T dark soy sauce…………3 T soy sauce
1 T + 1 t mirin………..2 T mirin…………………3 T mirin
2/3 oz (1 1/2 T) sugar….1/2 t sugar
2/3 oz (20g?)bonito flakes……1/2 oz (15g) bonito flakes

For the tsuke-jiru, it seemed to me that the least sweetest version belonged to Matsuhisa-sama; both Tsuji and Iron Chef Morimoto had far more mirin and/or added sugar.  So for a quick lunch, I thought about making  tenzaru soba. I looked at the Nobu recipe and cut it down to:

7 T dashi
1 T + 1 t + 1/2 t soy sauce
2 1/2 t mirin
2 1/4 t sugar
10g katsuobushi(dried shredded bonito) from 2 x 5g packets

assembling the tsuke-jiru

So while my wife and in-laws were away on their day trip to NYC, I thought I’d go ahead and make a ‘tenzaru’ soba for a quick lunch. I combined all the liquid ingredients (less the sugar, since I thought the mirin was sweet enough). I scalded the dashi in a preheated sauce pot and immediately added the soy and mirin. I then dumped in the katsuobushi, took the pot off the stove and let the mix cool to room temperature.  When the tsuke-jiru was cooled enough, I strained out and reserved the sauce and disposed of the shredded bonito.

Straining out the sauce for lunch

While the tsuke-jiru was cooling, I re-heated some shrimp tempura (about 15m in a 400 degree preheated oven) and cooked the 100% buckwheat noodles for about 8 minutes in boiling water.  Once the noodles were done, I shocked them in cold water, drained them as best I could in a colander and got them onto a plate.  In a side dish, I loaded the

A simple ‘tenzaru’ soba lunch

tempura and filled a small ramekin with Matsuhisa-sama’s tsuke-jiru.  On tasting the noodles with the soba and tempura, I found it to be a very nice lunch – the sauce just had that hint of sweetness that didn’t overpower the lunch. So it looks like I’m going to use the two noodle broths/sauces for soba/udon from here on in….

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