Japanese Noodle Party

Whether long and thin, round and curly or shaped like a bow tie, stuffed or covered with sauce, noodles are one the best foods on the planet. Make them into a comforting meal or as a vehicle for different toppings and sauce — there are thousands of ways to prepare the noodle.

It may have originated in China. However, the noodle has made its home in many cultures around the world. It was Marco Polo who introduced the noodle to Italy from China.

The Japanese are well known for their noodles particularly udon, soba and ramen. While traveling through Japan, soba was one of my favorite meals to eat next to sashimi. There is no question Japanese cooking is an art, its preparation a ritual and its presentation as important.

There are numerous Asian markets in Reno. The 168 Asian Market on South Virginia Street is my go-to for Asian products. They have a wide selection of organic noodles, soba and ramen included, as well as aisles and aisles of just about any type of Asian noodle one might desire.

Make them into a comforting meal or as a vehicle for different toppings and sauce — there are thousands of ways to prepare the noodle.

Recently, I was invited to teach a cooking class for a client who was throwing a Japanese-themed dinner party for 25 people. Appetizers included spicy garlic edamame prepared in a wok and inari (sweet tofu skin) stuffed with seasoned rice, avocado and scallions. The main course included soba and sides and miso ramen.

Soba is a long, thin buckwheat noodle. It is served in a broth-like sauce, called soba sauce, with side items added to the bowl. Portions are small, yet filling. The most difficult part of preparing a soba dinner is cutting up and preparing the sides that are served. Making soba sauce from scratch is relatively easy. The ingredients include soy sauce, sake, mirin and water. While the soba sauce is warming, put up a pot of water to boil for the noodles.

The next step is preparing the sides. Slice scallions, grate daikon radishes, sauté shitake mushrooms, sauté spinach in a bit of sesame oil, lay out nori, which is toasted seaweed, and natto, which is fermented soy beans — definitely an acquired taste, extremely viscous and earthy, but uniquely Japanese. Prepare sushi-grade ginger and wasabi, which you can make with dry wasabi powder.

A lazy Susan in the center of the table is helpful to serve this meal. Place all of the bowls filled with the sides on the lazy Susan so each person can add sides to his or her noodle bowl.

After the soba is cooked, add in the soba sauce, mix wasabi into the broth, add ginger and toppings, stir and enjoy. Most people can’t have just one bowl.

Healthy & delicious ramen
Ramen conjures up images of college students’ cupboards filled with instant packages of ramen. Ramen gets a bad rap. Generally made from wheat and curly, ramen can be prepared to be healthy and delicious. There are many ways to cook stock for ramen. Miso is one that works for both vegetarians and carnivores. The meat can be served on the side.

For my most recent ramen meal, I prepared a miso broth using a white miso or shiro-based miso, Kombu seaweed, dashi (seaweed), scallions and a touch of soy sauce. Bonito flakes are delicious, also. To add into the broth, I roasted a pork shoulder that was marinated in soy sauce, sake, a touch of sugar, fresh ginger and chopped garlic. I seared the pork in a cast-iron pan and roasted it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. The size of the cut will determine how long to roast it.

Toppings in this ramen bowl included quail eggs, soft to medium boiled; tofu; shitake and enoki mushrooms sautéed in a touch of sesame oil; lots of sliced scallions and thin-sliced pork. Once the ramen is cooked, add miso and ramen to the bowl, then the toppings and slurp away.

Noodle parties are fun and creative and adaptable to all palates. Sake is also a great addition to a noodle soiree. This party finished with mochi ice cream and sweet mochi cakes.

Priya Hutner is a writer, health and wellness consultant, and natural foods chef. Her business, The Seasoned Sage, focuses on wellness, conscious eating and healthy living. She offers healthy organic meals for her clients. She may be reached at pria78@gmail.com or visit theseasonedsage.com. Visit TheTahoeWeekly.com to read more.

Soba Sauce for Japanese Noodle Party

From the kitchen of Priya Hutner – Serves 4-6

2 packages of organic soba noodles
2 bunches scallions sliced
½ C daikon radishes

Boil large pot of water for soba noodles. Slice scallions and shred daikon radish.

Soba Broth
5 C water
1½ C soy sauce
1½ C mirin
1 C sake
¼ C rice wine vinegar
Wasabi, fresh or powdered
Sushi grade ginger

Add ingredients to large pot and simmer for 15 minutes.

Drain soba noodles and place in small bowls with broth, mix in wasabi, add ginger, scallions, daikon and enjoy.

You can also add sautéed spinach with sesame oil, shitake mushrooms, nori and natto.