Japanese cooking expert Elizabeth Andoh likes to serve this refreshing noodle dish during the hottest summer months. The nutty and wholesome buckwheat noodles are lightened with an assortment of crisp vegetables; ribbons of thin, lightly sweetened omelet (ideally made in a Japanese omelet pan, but use what you have!) provide some protein and substance.
You may chose to serve this dish with individual bowls of broth; guests season the broth with wasabi to taste before dipping their noodles in it like a sauce. Otherwise, serve the broth in a small pitcher as a salad dressing: stir in a small amount of wasabi paste, pour over the noodles and toppings, stir, and slurp.
For the Salad and Soy-Simmered Mushrooms
- 5 large dried shiitake mushrooms, caps and stems separated
- 1⁄4 cup soy sauce, divided
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp. sugar, divided
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 ½ tsp. sake, divided
- 1⁄3 cup loosely packed katsuo-boshi (Japanese fish flakes)
- One 2-inch piece of kombu
- One 14-oz. packet dried soba noodles, cooked and drained according the package instructions
- 1 tsp. wasabi paste
- 3⁄4 cup Persian-style cucumber, cut into thin julienne shreds
- 3⁄4 cup daikon radish, peeled and cut into thin julienne shreds
- 12 grape tomatoes, halved
For the Egg Shreds
- One 1-inch piece of kombu
- 2 1⁄4 tsp. sake
- 1⁄4 tsp. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, for seasoning the pan
- In a small saucepan, cover the dried shiitake stems with 1 ½ cups of cold water. Set aside till the stems are fully hydrated, at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar and 1 ½ teaspoons of sake then set over low heat. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the katsuo-boshi and steep for 4 minutes. Strain the dipping sauce into a clean bowl or liquid measuring cup. Discard the solids and chill the dipping sauce completely.
- In a medium bowl, combine the shiitake mushroom caps, kombu, and 1 ½ cups of cold water and steep until the caps are soft and plump, at least 30 minutes. Use your hands to remove the caps and the kelp from the liquid. Transfer them to a clean work surface.
- Set a fine strainer over a small saucepan. Strain the mushroom broth into the saucepan, and rinse any grit from the bowl.
- Slice the mushrooms into ¼-inch strips, then return them, and the kelp, to the bowl. Cover with a fresh cup of cold water. Steep the mixture till the mushrooms are softened all the way through and fully reconstituted, 5-10 minutes more.
- Transfer the mushroom mixture to the saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of sake, and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming any froth that forms on the surface. Add the sugar and continue cooking to reduce the liquid by half, 10-12 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, reduce the heat to low and and continue cooking until there is barely any liquid remaining and the mushrooms are coated in a thin glaze, 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mushrooms to cool in the liquid. When completely cool, use immediately or transfer to a clean glass jar, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make the egg sheets: In a small saucepan, cover the kombu with ¾ cup cold tap water and set aside until softened, at least 15 minutes. Add the sake, sugar, and salt, then set over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Remove and discard the kombu, transfer the stock to a small bowl and chill completely.
- In a medium bowl, use chopsticks or a fork to break up the eggs with 2 tablespoons of the cooled stock. Reserving the remaining stock for another use.
- Set a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, strain the egg mixture, and set aside.
- Pour the vegetable oil in a small bowl. Fold up a clean paper towel for greasing the omelet pan.
- Set a small, nonstick Japanese omelet pan (5 x 7-inch rectangle) or an 8-inch round nonstick pan over medium heat. Oil the pan with the paper towel. When the pan is hot, pour 3 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the pan. Gently swirl to allow the mixture to cover the surface of the pan. Continue cooking until the edges of the omelet shrink away from the sides of the pan slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and let the egg sheet continue to cook from the retained heat of the pan until it is no longer sloshy, 20-30 seconds. Use a single chopstick to loosen the omelet from the pan, slide the chopstick under the center of the omelet, then lift and flip it over. Allow the other side to dry off on the warm pan (no more than 30 seconds) then flip it out of the skillet onto a plate. Continue making the omelettes in this manner, stacking them neatly as you go. Cool completely. To use immediately, slice into ¼-inch julienne ribbons or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- To serve, divide the niban dashi between 4-6 small side bowls to use as a dipping sauce. Place a small dab of wasabi paste on the rim of each side bowl so each person can season their broth to taste before dipping. In 4-6 shallow bowls or plates, divide the cooked noodles, then neatly garnish each bowl with cucumber, daikon, sliced egg sheets, tomatoes, and marinated mushrooms.