Like most, I have an affinity for Asian soups. Vietnamese pho, Korean tofu soup, and Japanese ramen all rank high in my most frequently desired dishes, though this broth sustained my craving for something light and simple.

It's the simplicity and emphasis on seasonal items that draws me to Japan's cuisine. Straightforward, modest ingredients come together to compose fresh and healthy dishes.

This was my first attempt at making dashi from scratch and I must say that the almost minimal effort is worth it. Dashi is a Japanese stock made from kombu (edible kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and is most commonly used as the base for miso soup. It gives an umami flavor which is the foundation of Japanese cuisine. I added dried matsutake mushrooms to create a more earthy mushroom broth.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and despite the misleading name, buckwheat is actually gluten free. Soba is an excellent choice for those that are gluten intolerant or even just a healthy alternative to flour based pasta.

It should be noted that soba, udon, and ramen actually refer to the noodles and not the soup itself.

A quick lesson in Japanese noodles-

Soba- As mentioned, these noodles are made from buckwheat flour and have a correspondingly strong, nutty flavor.  Dried soba looks like flat spaghetti and is usually light beige to dark brown-gray in color. Soba noodles are also commonly eaten cold. 

Udon- Chewy and soft, these thick wheat noodles are best when you can find them fresh. Dried udon is still good, but the texture is more dense. Udon has a neutral flavor, so they make a good choice for strongly-flavored dishes. Usually served in a broth made from dashi, soy sauce, and mirin and topped with a fish cake and scallions.

Ramen- Also made of wheat, ramen noodles are much thinner and longer than udon and have a nice chewy bite when cooked. Ramen is traditionally served in a meat or fish based broth flavored with soy sauce or miso and garnished with egg, dried seaweed, sliced pork, and scallions.

Try making your own Japanese soup at home. Finish off with green tea ice cream and don't forget the sake!



2 quarts of water
2 pieces of kombu*
2 cups of katsuobushi (bonito flakes)*
1 packet of dried matsutake mushrooms, about 1 cup*
2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock 
3 tbs of soy sauce
soba noodles*

soft boiled egg, optional
dried seaweed*
 *These items can be found in the Asian section in most grocery stores. 

Add the kombu and the water to a large saucepan and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Add the dried mushrooms. Bring just up to a simmer and then remove the kombu. Simmer the broth with the mushrooms for 5 minutes. Add the bonito flakes and simmer for 10 minutes. (just a warning- this step does not smell very good.)

Strain the liquid through cheesecloth and pour back into the saucepan. Add the chicken stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the broth has reduced at least 1/4.

While the broth is simmering, prepare the garnish. 

Set aside a bowl of ice water for cooling the soft boiled eggs. Add the desired amount of eggs to a small saucepan, add water until they are submerged, and bring to a simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid, turn of heat, and allow to sit for exactly five minutes. Immediately remove and submerge in ice water to stop the cooking. Peel when ready to serve.

Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. 

Heat a saute pan, add a drop of oil, and slightly wilt the spinach, about 30 seconds. 

Chop scallions.

Add broth and soba to a bowl and garnish with each component.

Subscribe to feast + harmony