There's something about Japanese cuisine that makes me come back to it again and again. It's really all about the freshness, the subtle flavor, and the many health benefits. I especially love Japanese noodle soups because they're satisfying, soothing, and flavorful. In the past I've made udon soup, ramen soup, and now soba soup.
What ties all these soups together? They all contain and are named after the noodles. That's because noodles are a focus of the dishes. (In Japan noodles are held in high regard. And slurping your noodles is not only permitted, it's actually encouraged—if you don't slurp it's taken as a sign you don't like the food.) The thing that's different among these noodles is that one is made from a different type of flour.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and have a tender bite and unique nutty flavor. Buckwheat is a softer type of wheat that's also considered gluten-free. It's used in many other cuisines too—in France you'll find crepes made from buckwheat and in eastern Europe it's all about kasha, which is the name for buckwheat groats. Soba noodles can be enjoyed both cold, in salads, as well as hot, in soups like this one.
For great flavor this soup uses a classic dashi broth, which is classically used in miso soup. It's made with seaweed and dried tuna flakes (it's not as gross as it sounds). Chicken broth is added for additional umami flavor. The soup also includes spinach, wakame seaweed, and shiitake mushrooms. Thinly sliced scallions make a pretty garnish. If you're looking for a healthy and flavorful meal, you've got it right here.
Soba Noodle Soup with Spinach and Shiitakes
4-1/2 cups dashi broth, recipe follows
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dried wakame
6 ounces spinach
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced lengthwise
8 ounces soba noodles
Combine dashi and chicken broth in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add mirin and soy sauce. Add wakame, spinach, and mushrooms. Continue to simmer until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile cook soba in liberally salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Divide soba among 4 large bowls. Ladle over with hot broth and vegetables. Garnish with sliced scallions. Yield: 4 servings.
4-1/2 cups water
3-inch piece kombu
1/4 cup loosely packed katsuobushi
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Lower to a simmer and add kombu and katsuobushi. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes off from heat. Strain dashi broth into sieve lined with cheesecloth placed over a bowl. Discard solids. Yield: 4-1/2 cups broth.