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Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba Recipe is a light and simple Japanese side dish intended for balmy weather. Traditionally, cold cooked soba noodles are served on a bamboo platter called a zaru, garnished minimally with wasabi, grated daikon radish, and some sliced scallions, and dipped into the thin, flavorful sauce (which is available premade at Japanese grocery stores; it most often contains bonito flakes). This version is plumped into more of a main meal but retains its refreshing qualities. Thin ribbons of cold cucumber mingle with the noodles, avocado adds creaminess, and ripe, juicy mango contributes a refreshing brightness. Substitute summer fruits like nectarines or peaches for the mango if they’re in season. This is a great dish to pack for picnics—put all the components into separate containers, pass bowls around, and let everyone dish up their own. Store it on lots of ice.

SERVES 4
Zaru Soba Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sake
  • 1½ cups Vegetarian Dashi
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Scant ½ teaspoon ground wasabi powder
  • 3 bundles (about 11.5 ounces) dried soba noodles
  • 2 Persian or Kirby cucumbers, peeled if desired
  • 1 mango
  • 1 avocado
  • Two 2-inch squares toasted nori
  • ¼ cup finely grated peeled daikon radish

How to make Zaru Soba

  1. Place the sake in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 2 minutes, to cook off most of the alcohol, then add the dashi, soy sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Whisk together the wasabi powder and a spoonful of the sake mixture to make a paste, then stir the paste into the liquid in the saucepan. Store the dipping sauce in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled, about 4 hours.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and prepare an ice-water bath. Add the soba noodles and cook until tender, usually 6 to 8 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold running water, then plunge into the ice-water bath. Swish the noodles with your fingers to chill them as quickly as possible. Drain thoroughly and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  3. If using Kirby cucumbers, slice them in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon (there’s no need to seed Persian cucumbers). Cut the cucumbers into long, thin strands using the julienne setting of a mandoline. Alternatively, shave the cucumbers into thin slabs with a vegetable peeler, then stack the slabs on top of each other and carefully cut into thin strands using a long, sharp knife.
  4. Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler. Then hold it upright on a cutting board, stem facing up, and, with a sharp knife, cut the flesh off from the two widest sides, getting as close to the pit as possible. Work your way around the pit, cutting long strips off. You’ll be left with an oddly shaped pit that still has some fruit left on it; this is great for snacking. Lay the large pieces flat on the cutting board and cut them into thin wedges.
  5. Pit and peel the avocado and cut into wedges roughly the same width as the mango.
  6. Wave the nori squares over the flame of a gas burner a few times until they curl and the corners crisp, or roast under a broiler, flipping periodically. Stack the nori sheets on top of each other and, with a sharp knife, slice into the thinnest possible strips, or crumble them with your fingers.
  7. To serve, divide the noodles among four shallow bowls. Arrange the cucumber, mango, and avocado around the noodles. Place a mound of grated daikon and a little pile of shredded nori on each dish. Divide the dipping sauce between four small bowls. Use chopsticks to dip the noodles and toppings into the cold dipping sauce, bite by bite.