Japanese Nishin Soba Recipe
Soba is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine, and one of our favorite make-it-quick meals in the Freeman household. Aside from the obvious otaku factor, it is really really freaking tasty!
There are many different varieties of soba. Soba is basically Japanese thin noodles made from buckwheat and the dish can range from inexpensive fast food at railway stations, to expensive and detailed dishes in upscale restaurants.
This is our favorite soba dish, Nishin Soba, or “Herring Soba”. It is the most popular form of soba in the Kyoto region of Japan where herring fish is a frequently transported fish from the coastal region. It offers complex flavor and an impressive bowl with just a tiny bit of prep work.
We actually found this dish from a chapter in Fruits Basket manga, when Tohru’s class goes to Kyoto and Hana and Uotani want to try the local Nishin Soba. Awhile back, I made a small hobby of making the dishes mentioned in books and manga. I called them my “Novel Recipes”. (Get it? Get it?!) And this is one of the “keeper” recipes from the Fruits Basket series.
Anyhoo! On with the recipe!
You Will Need:
For the Marinade:
4 herring filets
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of mirin
1 teaspoon of sake
4 teaspoons of soy sauce
For the Broth:
8 oz. of dried soba noodles
½ cup of soy sauce
4 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of mirin
1 cup of dashi
2 green onions finely sliced
3 tablespoons of sesame oil
Furikake, for toppings
A Little About the Ingredients:
Herring Filets – If you are lucky enough to find fresh herring at your local market, use it! But you can use smoke herring (which is actually quite traditional for this dish) or canned herring from your canned meats aisle at your local grocer. (It’s usually next to the smoked salmon and canned anchovies..)
Mirin – This is a sweet rice wine, and is an essential condiment used in Japanese cuisine. Seriously. It’s hard to find a Japanese recipe that DOESN’T use mirin. Mirin has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content than most sake, and it adds a wonderful touch to Japanese dishes.
Sake – This is an alcoholic beverage of made from fermented rice. It’s best known as rice wine (like mirin, above) but the brewing process is more akin to beer, converting starch to sugar for the fermentation process. If you’re cooking with sake, use one that you enjoy drinking straight. It’ll make your dish taste that much better, and your cup of cake will pair nicely with your main dish!
Dashi – Dashi is a cooking stock used in Japanese cuisines, used in the same way Western cooking uses beef broth and vegetable broth. Dashi forms the base for miso soup, clear broth and noodle broth. The element of umami, considered one of the five basic tastes in Japan, is found in dashi stock. Dashi is made by boiling kombu (edible kelp) and kezurikatsuo (shavings of katsuobushi – preserved, fermented skipjack tuna). You can find powdered dashi stock, or cans of dashi from oriental markets. If you simply can’t find dashi stock, you can substitute beef broth, but you should really try to find dashi. There’s no decent sub for the traditional umami flavor of dashi broth!
Furikake – This is a dry Japanese seasoning that is used to sprinkle on top of rice and soups. It typically consists of a mixture of sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar and salt. Our favorite furikake is bonito furikake with dried fish shavings. You can usually find furikake in the Asian cuisine aisle of your supermarket, but if you, you can just use sesame seeds and nori strips for topping!
How to Make It:
1. Mix the sugar, mirin, sake and soy sauce into a bowl, and marinate the herring fillets for about 20 minutes.
2. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the soy sauce, sugar and mirin until just barely simmering. Stir and do not let boil. Add dashi and heat until hot. Take off burner and let cool.
3. Boil 8 cups of water over high heat. Add noodles and stir. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse well with water.
4. In small bowls, evenly divide the sesame oil in each bowl. Then ladle ½ cup of soup into each bowl. Add noodles to soup. Evenly divide green onions into each bowl and sprinkle with sliced nori and sesame seeds.
5. Meanwhile, grill the herring filets until they are charred to taste, and add onto top of soba noodles. Serve hot and enjoy!