Toshikoshi soba for vegetable fans
I don’t get sick very often and I almost never have a fever over 99, but at the end of December 2009 my husband picked up some sort of virulent influenza and passed it to me. With both of us too sick to travel to his family’s home, we spent the last few hours of 2009 listlessly partaking in the Japanese tradition of watching Kōhaku Utagassen, the lackluster singing competition that is held every year. At that point my fever was somewhere around 104, so I barely remember what bands appeared or what ridiculous costumes were featured. But I do remember the soba noodles that Tsuyoshi made, which were the only food other than English muffins and tea that I had consumed for several days at that point. I clearly recall carrots and enoki mushrooms atop a steaming bowl of chewy buckwheat noodles in a soy-tinged broth made from homemade dashi, accented by just a few pieces of yuzu skin to add a citrusy flavor and aroma. Despite the fact that this bowl of noodles was thrown together from things we had in the refrigerator even after days of no grocery shopping, somehow it made me feel like I might just survive to see 2010 after all.
Toshikoshi soba, which literally means “ending the old year and beginning the New Year soba,” is eaten after the clock strikes midnight on the first day of the year. Theoretically the reason people eat soba has something to do with the long noodles symbolizing long life and luck in the New Year (and according to this website it is also associated with severing the bad luck of the previous year), but it really takes very little to convince people to eat soba.
Most toshikoshi soba I’ve been served at the homes of friends has been fairly plain, with perhaps some green onions or kamaboko (cakes made from fish paste) on top. I had toshikoshi soba once at a Buddhist temple in the middle of the night, and their soba was served cold with wasabi and a soy-based dipping sauce. But soba is a pretty carbohydrate-heavy snack and I personally prefer my soba topped with plenty of vegetables to make it a more complete meal. (Unfortunately when I took the photograph up top, I had randomly bought some brown enoki mushrooms without considering that they wouldn’t look as pretty against the noodles. It would look nicer with the regular white ones.) This recipe for toshikoshi soba is not a traditional one by any means, but it’s a combination I like. I’m planning to eat it again this year, hopefully in much better health.
Toshikoshi soba with carrots and enoki
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 servings soba noodles (dry or fresh)
1/4 – 1/2 carrot (depending on size; add as much as you want)
1/2 package (90 grams) enoki mushrooms
1 liter dashi
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons usukuchi soy sauce
- Use a knife to thinly remove the upper layer of the yuzu skin (about 1 inch square). Chop into thin slivers.
- Heat the dashi. Chop the carrot into half moons and cook in dashi until soft.
- Add seasonings to dashi, and taste. Add more soy sauce or sugar if necessary.
- Add enoki mushrooms.
- Cook soba in separate pot according to directions.
- Warm two serving bowls by pouring a little hot water into them and swirling it around. Pour out, then place half of the cooked noodles in each bowl. Add dashi mixture. Garnish with chopped scallions and yuzu slivers.