Japan Eats

Recipe: Tsukemen (dipping noodles)

Tsukemen may have started out as summer dish, but you can eat it all year round.

Tsukemen is a dish featuring ramen-style noodles, a dipping sauce and usually some kind of garnish. Served separately, it’s the diner who dips the cool or luke-warm noodles in the hot soup. It’s a fun twist on ramen, and increasing popular in Japan, particularly in Tokyo where the dish is said to have originated.

Tsukemen

Tsukemen

This particular recipe has a distinctly Chinese flavor, thanks to the mix of chilli bean paste and tianmianjiang sauce. Note that the soup should be a little salty as the noodles and garnish will water down the flavor. Experiment with boiled cabbage, boiled spinach and fresh coriander as a garnish.

This dish involves a little preparation, but comes together quickly at the end.

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4 people)

Tsukejiru (soup)

  • 100 – 130 g minced pork
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped ginger
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of doubanjiang (Chinese chilli bean paste)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons of douchijiang (blackbean chilli paste)
  • 400 ml chicken soup stock
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of tianmianjiang (sweet soybean paste)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped green onion
  • 2 – 3 pinches of black pepper

Garnish

  • 50 g string beans
  • 50 g carrot
  • 100 g bean sprouts
  • 30 g radish sprouts
  • 10 stalks Asatsuki chives

Noodles

  • 100 – 120 g Chinese noodles per person

Method

First prepare the garnish. Cut off both sides of the string beans. Place a pan with 4 – 5 cups of water on a high heat. Once it comes to the boil, add a pinch of salt and boil the string beans for 3 – 4 minutes. Drain and cool them down in a bowl of cold water; drain again and cut them diagonally into 4 – 5 cm lengths.

Cut the carrot into 4 – 5 cm sections. Cut lengthwise, with the grain, so that you can create rectangles 2 mm thick. Now lay them on their sides and slice them again so they form 2 mm x 2 mm strips. Place a pan with 2 – 3 cups of water on a high heat. Once it comes to the boil, add a pinch of salt and boil the carrot for 1 minute. Drain and cool in a bowl of cold water, drain again.

Put the bean sprouts in a bowl and cover them with water to prevent the color changing. Pluck away the roots. Place a pan with 4 – 5 cups of water on a high heat and once it comes to the boil, cook the bean sprouts for 1 minute. Drain and cool them in a basket.

Cut the roots from 30 g of radish sprouts and rinse them in cold water.

Cut the asatsuki chives into 4 – 5 cm lengths.

Place a small pot (enough to hold 500 – 600 ml) with 1 table spoon of sesame oil on a low heat. Once it has become warm, add the finely chopped garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 – 2 mins. Add the minced pork, turn the heat up to medium and cook well. Turn the heat down to low and add 1 – 2 teaspoons of doubanjiang and douchijiang. Mix and sauté for another 1 – 2 min until the mixture gives off a spicy aroma.

Now add the 400 ml of chicken stock. Once it comes to the boil, add 2 tablespoons of sake, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 – 3 tablespoons tianmianjiang and 2 – 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and mix well.

Turn off the heat, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of roughly chopped green onion and 2 – 3 pinches of black pepper.

Finally, cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain them and cool in a bowl of cold water. Wash the noodles carefully while still in the bowl, changing the water a couple of times so you can remove the starch.

Serve the noodles, garnish and soup separately. When eating, choose your favorite garnish and place it in the soup with the noodles.

Recipe: Spicy soboro salad

Soboro is an ideal topping for rice, noodles or even salads.

Soboro is seasoned ground meat that’s usually eaten on rice (soborodon) or in noodle dishes such as tantanmen. It has a salty-sweet flavor, with some recipes calling for the addition of chopped ginger to balance the flavors.

For most Japanese, the word soboro conjures images of torisoboro, made from chicken which is then spread over rice and served as part of a bento. However it also makes an excellent addition to salads, particularly when they contain sprouts like those of radishes, broccoli or kale. The sprouts add a sharpness which cuts through the flavor of the seasoned meat. The following recipe uses pork and a seasoning that includes both soy sauce and doubanjiang, a Chinese paste made of fermented fava beans.

It’s important to cook the soboro immediately before preparing the salad. Mix into the salad when the soboro is still warm. It will slightly soften the leaves of the vegetables and help bind the ingredients together.

Soboro Salad

Soboro Salad

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 200 g of red cabbage
  • 50 g of red-leaved chicory
  • 50 g of red radish
  • 100 g (1 package) of radish sprouts

Soboro

  • 100 g of pork mince
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of doubanjiang (Chinese chili bean paste)
  • 1 teaspoon of douchijiang (blackbean chili paste)
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce

Dressing

  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons of sesame oil

Garnish

  • 2 tablespoons of white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of roughly crushed peanuts

Method

First, prepare the vegetables. Rinse the red cabbage and red-leaved chicory then slice into pieces 1 mm thick (cut against the grain). Rinse the red radishes and slice them thinly. Cut off the root part (sponge bed) of the radish sprouts, the cut them into half, leaf and stem. Use leaves later as a garnish.

Fill a large bowl with enough ice water to cover the red cabbage, red-leafed chicory, red radish and radish sprout (only the stems) and rinse the vegetables for 5 – 6 minutes before draining.

While you are refreshing the vegetables, prepare the soboro. Place a frying on the stove with a tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic.

Turn the heat to low and saute for 1 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of doubanjiang (Chinese chili bean paste) and 1 teaspoon of douchijiang (paste) to the pan and saute till they give you the spicy aroma. Then add pork mince and turn the heat to medium, fry them till they cooked and crumbly. Finally, add ½ teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and mix thoroughly.

Now for the dressing. Mix ½ teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar in a cup, then add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and mix again. At the end of this process, add 3 teaspoons of sesame oil. Stir thoroughly.

Prepare the garnish by placing a frying pan on a low heat and roasting the sesame seeds slowly for 5 minutes.

Place the vegetables in a large serving bowl, then sprinkle the roasted sesame seeds and crushed peanuts over the leaves. Next, place the soboro and radish leaves on top the vegetables. Finally pour the dressing over the vegetables. Mix the whole salad evenly before eating.