Now that I've successfully figured out how to make Japanese pancakes, I've moved on to tackling one of my favorite noodle dishes, abura soba. When I was in Kyoto, I stumbled upon a small noodle shop hidden in a dark alley. I randomly chose a dish, sat down, and a couple of minutes later was given a bowl of dry ramen also known as "abura soba." After a couple of bites, I was in love. The noodles were just beyond words, a little sour, a little spicy, a little savory, and oh so delicious. As soon as I returned to the States, I made it my mission to recreate what I had in Japan. Unfortunately, I couldn't find ingredients that were of the same quality as in Japan but this was the closest I can get to recreating the dish. Here is the recipe for abura soba with shoyu!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
I didn't find out how to make an authentic bowl of ramen until I visited Japan. When preparing shoyu or shio ramen, you have a base component called the "tare" that serves as the flavor for the broth. Tare recipes vary according to the chef as there are many, many different variations out there. My favorite was the shoyu abura soba, which is the dish I am preparing today. This dry ramen, often referred to as "soup-less oil noodles," is tossed with tare and pork fat. Once served, the customer then finishes the noodles with vinegar and chili oil, adding as much or as little as they prefer.
Abura soba has the same toppings as ramen such as pork belly, soft boiled egg, green onions, bamboo, and nori. Chashu pork is the most popular choice for the protein, but I decided to make crispy pork belly instead.
The most important part of cooking the pork belly is to keep the skin dry to get it nice and crispy. Marinate the pork flesh for at least 1 hour. Pat a nice layer of salt on top of the skin and roast for 40 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and you will see that the salt has absorbed the moisture from the skin and created a crust. Peel off the crust and finish cooking the pork.
The skin comes to a beautiful crisp while the pork belly is moist and tender, the perfect topping for this abura soba.
Abura soba is comprised of only a few ingredients so each ingredient must be top-notch. I discovered through trial and error that the best brand of ramen noodles available in America is by Sun Noodle. Their noodles are thicker and hold up better to the body of the tare better than other noodles. If you find another brand, I would love to hear your suggestions!
Be careful when cooking the noodles. They only take a couple of minutes; overcook them and they will become gummy. Keep the boiling water hot and merely dunk the noodles just long enough for them to separate and warm up, about 1 minute. I also found that tossing them in a little bit of cold water helps prevent them from becoming gummy.
Now for the most important part, the tare. There was no way of replicating the exact tare that I had in Kyoto. Not only could I never find the recipe, but I also couldn't find ingredients of the same quality. My only solution was to wing it and test batch after batch. Although this is still not 100% the same as the one I had in Japan, I believe it's quite close.
Toss the noodles with the tare and pork fat - yes, pork fat. As essential as the tare is, so is the pork fat. It coats the noodles and gives the dish body, something that sesame oil or other substitutes cannot offer. Top the noodles with the pork, green onions, soft boiled egg, and nori. Serve and let the diner drizzle vinegar and chili oil, adjusting the amount according to their preference. I love to add a little more vinegar as I continue eating; trust me, you need these last two components to complete the dish.
If you've never had abura soba before, I urge you to give it a try. It is a comforting bowl of noodles that you have never had before...I think it's time to make myself a second bowl!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.