The Summer of 2012 has been emotional and joyous - my son Sakae and BInah got married and my stepson Tyler and Emmalina had a baby. It has also been physical and floury - doing the noodle gig and getting slowly back into yoga. My hands and clothes were crusted with flour all summer long.
The fresh hand cut soba noodles are made for Cookbook in Echo Park and Ai restaurant in South Pasadena since May. I make the noodles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for delivery before 11am. It is like doing yoga in the morning. I sometimes arrive late to my yoga class on my noodle making mornings and apologiz to Art, my yoga teacher. But he totally gets what I am doing. "You don't even have to come to yoga, just make your noodles. That's yoga."
I have had my good days and bad days with soba. A hot dry day in Pasadena can ruin your soba noodles. It happened a couple of times. I couldn't get the water ratio right (the dough came out too soft or too dry)and had to dump my dough in the compost bin and start all over again. This is not fun when you know you have 50 servings to make before 10 am. Making noodles with a pasta machine would be the no brainer route but the whole practice is done by hand so there are no short cuts in soba. Working with buckwheat is a humbling experience. Besides being delicious, that's one of the reasons what I love about soba.
The noodles-to-go are uncooked. There are two servings in a box. So there is some work involved for the cook. It comes with dipping sauce and condiments. My idea was to let people try making fresh handcut soba noodles at home. Making the noodles have been a lot of work but the response has been very good. My noodles at Cookbook almost always sell out.
To cook the noodles, simply boil them in a pot of lots of water as you would do pasta. Drop the noodles gently in the boiling water and cook for 70-90 seconds. Scoop the noodles out of the boiling water with a strainer and then quickly rinse and massage them under cold water to remove the scum. Shock them in ice cold water with lots of ice cubes (I use a bowlful) . Allow the noodles to soak in the ice water for about 5 seconds to firm them up. Finally, drain the water thoroughly. Water left on the noodles can affect the taste of the noodles so this step is important. Serve the noodles immediately. Don't let them sit around. They start to get mushy and dry.
The soba noodles can be also be served like a salad. Pile some chopped summer greens and veggies on top of the noodles. Add the sauce with a drizzle of olive or truffle oil. So yummy. My summer gig at Cookbook will end in August. I will continue making noodles for Ai.