Salty savory Japanese comfort food and some thoughts about soba

Yeah you know your mouth is already watering, so let’s cut right to it.  This recipe is Chicken Soba Soup with Spinach and Miso, and damn it is the perfect thing for cold winter days.  I basically could’ve been sipping the broth while sitting at a kotatsu with Mount Fuji visible through the window.  The recipe is really easy and pretty cheap, but weirdly it makes about 3 servings (unless we’re food monsters and we eat 1.3 servings per person, which is possible).

All there is to this recipe is some easy-peasy chopping and grating, along with pulling the meat off a poached chicken breast.  One person could easily handle it alone.  I recommend having the scallions and ginger prepped before you put the chicken in the pot (I used a regular soup pot rather than a Dutch oven and things turned out just fine).   That way, you don’t have to worry about chopping stuff while also keeping an eye on the chicken.

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Yaaaasss chicken get nice and brown

As soon as you add the liquid, you can focus on the rest of the stuff.  I use this time to put the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and white miso (this ingredient should not be optional – it provides a perfect umami flavor) in a mug.  It doesn’t take long, but hey, you’ve got the time, may as well use it.

The rest of the soup-making process is really straightforward.  Take the chicken out, add the noodles, mix some broth into the miso mug, and you’re basically done.  Toss in the spinach and boom, dinner.  There’s not much more to say about it.

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Ta-daaaaa spinach

P.S. the ingredients call for 8 cups of water but then only tells you to add 7, so stick with 7 because if makes a more concentrated broth.  Maybe that’s why I only get 3 servings out of this recipe.

Final Thoughts

This recipe is one of the easiest and fastest in my repertoire.  It comes across as fancy, which is awesome for impressing friends, but is so simple it’s crazy.  There are no special techniques, and the only equipment you really need is a pot, a knife, a cutting board, tongs (or a fork), a mug, and a grater – and if you don’t have a grater, you can probably make do with thin slices.  The only thing that makes this a little challenging is shredding the chicken, since it’s still really hot after 4 minutes of resting.  You can use two forks, but it’s slow, and if you try to use your fingers the meat is too hot.  You could wait until the chicken cools, but by then the soup has been done for a while and idk about you but by then I’m too hungry to wait.  Ease of making: 2/10

This recipe is hella tasty.  The ginger and scallion flavors are perfectly imparted into the broth with the chicken, and it’s nice to have the pieces in the soup as well.  There’s a good variety of textures from the soba to the chicken to the wilted spinach, and personally I think the white miso is what makes this dish.  Delish.  Yum factor: 10/10

To sum up, I’ve made this recipe once or twice before, and I’m definitely planning on making it again.  The end.

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I highly recommend getting cat bowls because they’re super cute.  You can pick them up at your local Asian supermarket.  I’m not kidding – they must get sent out to Asian supermarkets all over the country on a regular basis.  They’re everywhere.

Just for funsies, here are some culture notes about eating this soup.

Soba are buckwheat noodles that are most often served dry with a dipping sauce called soba tsuyu and toppings like toasted sesame seeds or dried seaweed flakes.  They’re also usually served cold – you boil the noodles, then rinse them under cold water.  It’s very refreshing in summer.  If you want to try them by themselves, I recommend making an egg to go on top.  Beat the white and the yolk together and fry it like an egg pancake, then slice it into strips.  Soy sauce can be substituted for soba tsuyu, but soba tsuyu is light and sweet, so be careful not to overdo it since soy sauce is meant to be salty.

Eating this dish with chopsticks is fun, so if you know how to use chopsticks, go for it!  If you don’t know how to use chopsticks, it’s not hard to learn, but I’m not going to try to teach you here because my technique is weird and I’ll mess you up.  Anyway, when you need to put your chopsticks down, either rest them on a spare plate or chopstick rest (you can buy really cute origami crane ones at Asian supermarkets if you’re interested) or place them ACROSS the edge of your bowl.  Never place the tip of the chopsticks into the soup and leave the ends sticking out (like the spoon in the photo above, although you can leave a spoon like that because nobody cares about spoons).  This is considered rude in some Asian cultures because it mimics incense in a food offering during funerals or ancestor worship.  It’s seen as disrespectful to do that with your everyday food.  Ya know, just fyi.

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