In Japan, where it gets plenty hot in the summer, cold soba noodles, served with a dipping sauce, are a common snack or light meal. Soba are brown noodles, made from wheat and buckwheat and the combination of cold noodles and dipping sauce is called zaru soba. Think about adding finely grated or minced ginger to the dish. Add minced scallions or toasted sesame seeds as a garnish.
This recipe is for a dipping sauce based on dashi, the omnipresent Japanese stock.
You would recognize the smell of dashi in an instant, even if you have never knowingly eaten it. It's a brilliant concoction based on kelp, a seaweed, and dried bonito flakes. It is also among the fastest and easiest stocks you can make, and its two main ingredients – which you can buy in any store specializing in Asian foods – keep indefinitely in your pantry. I would encourage you to try making it, though you can also use chicken stock (or instant dashi, which is sold in the same stores).
While you can certainly buy noodle dipping sauce, or tempura sauce as a substitute, pre-bottled in many supermarkets in the U.S., making the sauce fresh at home is easy and has no MSG or other chemicals in it.
Mentsuyu Dipping Sauce
You may also wish to try Mentsuyu (noodle sauce), another very versatile tsuyu dipping sauce that gives many soups and dishes a great, complex Japanese umami flavor. This is perfect for dipping cold Soba or Somen noodles, tempura and more. It is so easy to make and keeps well in the refrigerator (at least a couple weeks) and comes in handy in a crunch time for dinner. This thin, clear sauce is made from dashi soup stock and a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, which is called ‘kaeshi’. As well as serving men tsuyu alongside piles of cold noodles, this easy stock can also be diluted with hot water for a seasoned soup broth to enjoy with hot noodles.
You can cook meat and vegetables with this sauce as seasoning, like a quick teriyaki sauce, or just drizzle over steamed vegetables or tofu. This is a condensed form of sauce, so dilute with water before using. One part this sauce and two parts water is good as a dipping sauce, but adjust to whatever strength you like.
- 2 cups kombu and katsuobushi dashi
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup mirin
- Put mirin in a medium pan and bring to a boil.
- Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil again.
- Stop the heat.
- Cool the sauce.