Soba Noodle Soup with Miso Dashi

Coming home to cold NYC from beautiful New Zealand, with temperature highs near 70° and sunset after 9pm, was a little hard. We had the most amazing time and filled our days with exploring, hiking, biking, and, of course, eating. It was wonderful and relaxing, but boy did I miss my kitchen! Sometimes when we travel, we’ll have a “home base” apartment and a complete kitchen. It’s fun to hit the markets and cook in a new place with unfamiliar ingredients. This trip we drove around the country packing up every couple of days to see something new and so it was a few weeks without chopping, roasting, sautéing, or baking for me.

Oh, we did just fine on the food front. So. Much. Good. Food. (And wine!) But towards the end of our trip I was already making grocery lists and planning meals. Now I’ve been back a week, am finally past jet lag, and very happy to be back on the blog.

Right before we left I decided to try my hand at making a soba soup with a dashi base. It’s definitely not hard to make but because I hadn’t ever tried to do it before, it was daunting. I’ve tried my hand at miso soup before but because I didn’t make a dashi it always lacked the depth that I’ve tasted (and crave) at Japanese restaurants.
Dashi is typically made of kombu (dried kelp) and dried fish. Once that broth is prepared it can become the base for tons of Japanese dishes and soups. It has an umami flavor that’s unique to Japanese cooking.

Our kitchen is kosher and it was hard to find a package of kombu that I could use, let alone the bonito, dried fish. After reading a ton about kombu and making dashi I decided to leave off the fish and make it only with the dried kelp. I made the dashi by soaking kombu in water and simmering it with a few pieces of ginger and garlic. After the broth was strained, the miso paste was whisked in and transformed it into a deep, flavorful broth.

Picking out the toppings was loads of fun and this is really a dish that you can tailor to your tastes. I went with shiitake mushrooms, scallions, bok choy, sesame seeds, tofu, seaweed, some Japanese yams that were steamed and sliced, and the all-important soba noodle – star of the dish.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and there are many different varieties you can buy. They can range in thickness and sweetness but I prefer a simple, thin noodle. I love the nutty texture and heartiness. It’s filling, warm, and does wonderfully in a big bowl of soup. The noodles are cooked beforehand and added to the bowl at the end with the soup poured on top.

I’m so happy to have learned how to make this because I often crave soba soup and usually have to venture far to get a fix. While these aren’t ingredients you might have in your kitchen right this minute, once you buy them they last a long time and will make for many warm bowls of soup this very cold winter.

Soba Noodle Soup with Miso Dashi
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 piece of kombu (You can probably find kombu at your local health food store and it runs about $10 for a bag of around 10 pieces or more)
  • 2-3 pieces of ginger/garlic cut in large pieces
  • 2-2.5 Tbsp of miso paste
  • Soba noodles (or your noodle of choice)
  • Toppings: Whatever you like (I used bok choy, japanese yam, scallion, shiitake mushroom, tofu, seaweed, and toasted sesame seeds)
Instructions
  1. Kombu needs to be gently wiped off before using it. Take a damp paper towel and run in across the top and bottom. Do not scrub or press too hard - you don't want to wipe off all the white powdery stuff. Place your strip of kombu, along with the garlic and ginger, into a pot with 4 cups of cold water and let it soak for an hour.
  2. Turn a burner to a medium-low heat and place the pot. Let it come very slowly towards boiling but immediately remove it as the water starts to boil. If the kombu sits in boiling water it will make your broth bitter.
  3. Strain the kombu broth into a clean pot. I used a cheesecloth for a very fine strain. This is now your dashi.
  4. Prepare your noodles. Cook them according to the package directions, and if you're using soba noodles follow this next step! As your noodles cook, set a large bowl of cold (not ice) water on the side. Once your noodles are done, drain them, and immediately slip them into the bowl of cold water. Now wash your noodles! (Yup!) Using both hands, gently rub the noodles together to help remove excess starch and providing stickiness prevention. This step should take a minute or two at most.
  5. To add your miso, whisk the 2 Tbsp first with a small amount of the kombu dashi in a separate bowl to make sure you won't have clumping in the big pot. Once it's all blended and broken down, add the contents of miso/dashi bowl into the larger pot and stir it together. Taste. If you need more miso add it now by using the same small bowl to big pot method.
  6. Now you can begin adding your toppings. Things like boy choy and mushrooms can go in raw and wilt/cook in the broth.
  7. When you're ready for a bowl of soup, add the noodles first and then pour/ladle soup over. Artfully sprinkle some sesame seeds on top. Admire it. Eat it.