Vegan Zaru Soba
Vegan Zaru Soba makes a simple, soothing, and refreshing meal. Buckwheat noodles dipped in a chilled savory, smoky broth with shredded daikon radish, green onion, and fresh ginger are naturally relaxing yet filling. Takes 15 minutes to make.
- 4 servings dry soba noodles (3.5 ounces or 100 grams per serving) see note on portions
- Chilled water or ice water
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms sliced (can use other dried mushrooms, see note)
- 1 piece kombu 2x2 inch or 5x5 centimeter
- 1/2 sheet sushi nori or 8 small (1x2 inch, 2.5x5 centimeter) pieces
- 1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon maple
- 1/2 pound daikon radish grated and squeezed (see note)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger grated
- 2 green onions chopped finely
- 1 cup shredded nori loosely packed
Cook the soba
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Monitor them closely and taste the noodles a minute or two before they supposed to be done. When the noodles are just cooked (they should be chewy and firm but not stick to your teeth), turn off the heat, drain the noodles, and rinse them thoroughly with cold tap water. Cover them with a damp paper towel and set them aside. You can keep them in the fridge if you’d like them chilled.
Simmer the tsuyu base
Bring the sake and mirin to a gentle simmer In a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the remainder of the Tsuyu ingredients and stir everything together well. When the mixture returns to a simmer, cover and turn to low heat. Allow it to simmer for at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes, to develop the flavors. If you simmer toward the 30-minute side, monitor the pot to make sure that there is enough liquid to submerge the solid ingredients. If there is not, add water 1/4 cup at a time.
Strain and dilute the tsuyu
Carefully strain the broth into a bowl. Use a fork or pair of chopsticks to squeeze as much liquid out of the mushrooms as you can. This mushroom liquid will be very concentrated and improve the flavor of the tsuyu if you extract it.
Slowly add chilled or ice water to the bowl broth to bring it to roughly the strength/saltiness of a soup that you would drink. For a tsuyu that was boiled 10-15 minutes, I used 3/4 cup of chilled water. For one boiled for 30 minutes it was 1 cup or slightly more.
The 15-minute cooking time assumes you can cook the noodles and soup simultaneously. This is easier for 2 people but also possible for 1 person. The general strategy is to start boiling the water for the noodles at the same time you start simmering the sake and mirin. After you've added everything for the tsuyu and left it to simmer on its own, you can focus on cooking the soba and getting the texture just right.
If you're not making this for 4 people, you can cook only the soba noodles you need and make a full batch of broth. The broth can be saved and used for zaru soba later, or even used as a hot soup.
I tried using both shiitake and a combination of shiitake and assorted dried mushrooms (mostly white, brown, portobello). The shiitake mushrooms produce a nice strong flavor, while the assorted ones make the flavor a bit rounder and more balanced. You can substitute 1/2 cup of assorted mushrooms for each shiitake. My favorite combination was 2 shiitake plus 1/2 cup assorted.
It’s important that you squeeze as much liquid out of the daikon radish as possible so that it adds a nice texture and doesn’t dilute the tsuyu too much.
The broth (diluted or not) will stay good in the fridge for a week. The noodles will stay good for 2-3 days if they’re in a sealed container, but they tend to have the best texture when cooked fresh.