The luxurious, velvety texture of the grilled eggplant, spinach, and soft boiled quail eggs are a worthy accompaniment for the classic soba noodles and tsuyu broth.
Soba noodles with tsuyu is a classic combination in Japanese cuisine. Delicious and nutritious as a dish on its own, it can also be a umami packed base for a range of toppings. Check out the soba with crispy skin duck, and soba with natto and kimchi (coming soon).
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, and responds differently when being cooked compared to wheat or rice noodles. For a more detailed guide on cooking soba noodles, visit this Food52 post.
Tsuyu is a combination of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. Sometimes some sake as well. Proportions vary based on whether the tsuyu is intended for a dipping sauce or a soup base. It also depends on the strength of the soy sauce. I used a naturally brewed 2 year aged soy sauce. A ratio of 16:1:1 worked for this broth. For a lighter soy sauce, a ratio of 8:1:1 might be more appropriate.
By using a kombu and shiitake based dashi, this is a really delicious vegetarian dish. If you are a flexitarian or pescatarian, use a dashi prepared with katsuobushi. It adds even more umami, as well as a smoky richness to the broth. Check out how to make dashi.
Grilled eggplant, spinach, and quail eggs on soba noodles
- 500 g eggplants
- pinch of salt
- 5 cups water for 4 cups dashi
- 1 15 x 15 cm piece of kombu
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms medium sized, 6cm across
- 1 cup katsuobushi not used if making a vegetarian version
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- 2 Tbsp sake
- 1 bunch fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup spring onions finely chopped
- 5 g butter 1/3 Tbsp
- 1 tsp truffle oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 400 g dried soba noodles
- 8 quail eggs
- Japanese chilli flakes
- Grill/broil the eggplants whole, skin on, until the skins are charred black.
- As soon as the eggplants are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the charred skin.
- Place in a colander, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and allow any juices to drain.
- Reheat in the oven at 140 degC for 15 minutes before serving.
- In a saucepan (not aluminium) soak the kombu and dried shiitake mushrooms in the 5 cups of water overnight, or for at least 3 hours.
- Put the saucepan over a medium-low heat and wait until it simmering and soon to boil.
- Remove from the heat. Remove the kombu and discard.
- Remove the mushrooms and set aside. We will dice and sauté those.
- If you are making a vegetarian version, that’s it. Set the dashi aside ready for the final assembly.
- If you are making a non-vegetarian version, now is the time to add the katsuobushi. Let it steep in the hot dashi until it sink to the bottom.
- Strain the dashi through a fine strainer, and then through muslin. Set aside ready for the final assembly.
- Wash and coarsely chop the spinach.
- Finely dice the spring onions.
- In a wok or large high sided fry pan, sauté the spring onions inn the butter for 2 minutes.
- Add the spinach and sauté until starting to wilt.
- Add the salt and truffle oil (if using), toss, and remove from the heat.
- Sous vide the quail eggs at 64degC for 40 minutes.
- Plunge into an ice water bath.
- Very carefully, peel the shells from the quail eggs.
Sautéd mushrooms slices
- Using the shiitake mushrooms from the preparation of the dashi stock, dry with paper towels if necessary, and remove stems.
- Slice across the longest edge to get good sized pieces.
- Add a little oil to a skillet and sauté the sliced mushrooms until golden.
Soba, tsuyu, and serving
- Cook the dried soba noodles according to the package, or until al dente. That will normally be 5 to 7 minutes. Start sampling at 5.
- Drain the noodles in a colander and place under cold running water to stop the cooking and wash away any starch. Allow to drain.
- To make the tsuyu, add 4 cups of the dashi, together with the soy sauce, mirin, and sake to a saucepan.
- When nearly ready to serve, bring up to a simmer, and simmer for 5 minutes to evaporate off the alcohol.
- Distribute soba noodles between bowls.
- Top with grilled eggplant, spinach, quail eggs, and sautéd mushroom slices.
- Pour over a portion of the dashi broth.
- Sprinkle with chilli flakes, diced spring onions, or nori flakes.