As with much Japanese cuisine, the aesthetic presentation of soba is essential. This version uses ingredients that evoke late winter: bare earth (shiitake mushrooms), snow (tofu), evergreens (seaweed), and the hope of an early sign of spring (green onion).
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound silken tofu
- 10 oz. of soba
- green onions
- 20 shiitake mushrooms
- pinch of salt
- chili powder
- sesame seeds
- Make the broth. Place 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon each brown sugar, chopped ginger and chopped garlic, plus 1 cup water, in a pot over high heat. Next, divide 20 shiitake mushrooms into stems and caps. When soy mixture is at a boil, add caps, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove caps; reserve. Add stems plus 5 cups water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer covered, 30 minutes. Discard stems.
- Cook the soba. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil (if the soba noodles have salt as an ingredient, omit it from the water), add a 10- to 11-ounce package of soba, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the noodles are firm but with no crunch (similar to al dente pasta), about 3 to 6 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water, then divide soba into four bowls. Using a twirling motion with tongs to form soba into nest shapes.
- Spoon in tofu and mushrooms. The Japanese prefer silken tofu, which has a custard-like texture. Drain a 1-pound container of silken tofu, place in bowl, heat in microwave on high for 1 minute, then scoop out with a tablespoon, dividing equally among bowls. "Tile" reserved mushroom caps off-center on top of tofu.
- Sprinkle seaweed and scallions. Nori, the dark-green pressed seaweed in sushi rolls, gives this dish a hint of the sea. Cut a half sheet of it into matchstick-size strips with scissors. Sprinkle over tofu. Slice two green onions on an extreme bias; divide evenly among bowls.
- Ladle in the broth. Make sure broth is extremely hot. To avoid disturbing the other ingredients, ladle soup slowly down the side of each bowl, as you would pour a glass of champagne.
- Add a pinch of sesame seeds, chili powder, and tangerine zest to the broth and stir.