Two dishes! Both new to me, although I've certainly made noodles and fried things before. To say I was challenged is an understatement. I did do the noodles early, since they are served cold, but the tempura had to wait for Bob's arrival so it would be fresh and hot. And in a lot of ways, this challenge was just what Daring Cooks expect - lots of room for variations and some technique changes.
The directions for cooking the soba seemed a little odd to me, so after reading other posts on the Daring Cook site, I decided to ignore them and just follow the directions on the noodle package. Unlike many people who found their noodles congealing into a gooey mass, my noodles were just the right texture and stayed totally separate. One for me.
|Soba noodles with veggies and sauce|
There are many options for sauces and condiments for this cold noodle salad. I chose the spicy sauce (although perhaps "spicy" is a relative term, since this sauce did not seem all that spicy). If I were to do a spicy sauce of my own creation, I would add ginger, red pepper flakes and other flavors to heighten the heat. The little bit of dry mustard didn't really reach the level of spicy I like. For condiments, I used bok choy, daikon, and red radishes. I could have added chicken or ham or strips of omelet, but with the tempura on the menu, it didn't seem necessary. The cold noodle salad was fine, but not as flavorful as I would have chosen.
The tempura was another case of changing the process. I made the tempura batter as described, I prepared the veggies as described (including parboiling the sweet potatoes using Kenji's (Serious Eats Food Lab writer) method of adding a little vinegar to the water), and I kept all cold until the oil was ready. The time involved in heating oil is always more lengthy that I expect and requires a lot of attention to be sure the right temp is reached but not exceeded by too much (remembering that adding the food will bring the temp down).
The recipe said to use 320 degree oil for the veggies and 340 for the prawns. I thought that sounded way too low for the veggies, so again, drawing on the expertise of Kenji, I used his recommended temp for making potato chips and heated the oil to 350. The recipe had little information on how long various veggies would take to cook, so it was a bit of a guessing game. I think everything turned out pretty well - the sweet potatoes were awesome - but a little more guidance would have helped. And the prawns were supposed to cook at 340, but 360 worked better, so that's what I did. Again, a little shortage of instruction on how to determine doneness, but I tried to estimate and it seemed to work - all the prawns were devoured.
|Prawn, sweet potato, carrot and mushroom tempura|
And honestly, by the time I was done cooking for the pictures and my husband, I was not too interested in going on. Maybe sort of like Thanksgiving: Spend a week getting ready and the actual meal seems far less appealing.