Pink soba noodles, stir-fried with pink surimi and topped with mentaiko, a spicy cured cod roe, makes this seafood soba a visually striking dish – especially if you like pink! More importantly, it’s delicious.
The soba noodles
A plum extract (ume in Japanese) is used to colour the Kanesu soba or pink soba. I got a pack from a very good friend who had visited Osaka. You may be able to buy them in an Asian grocery or certainly online. They don’t taste significantly different from normal soba noodles, but they do look great. That’s not to say that other soba dishes don’t look great too. They do.
These buckwheat soba noodles should not be confused with yakisoba. Indeed, seafood yakisoba is a popular dish in Japan. Yakisoba noodles are more like Chinese egg noodles.
The cured cod roe (mentaiko)
Pink noodles are not the only pink ingredient in this seafood soba dish. Another very pink ingredient is the mentaiko. A spoonful of this spicy cured cod roe brings much complexity when tossed together with the pink soba noodles. Another spoonful sits atop the pink soba noodles when served. Mentaiko is a sack of salted cod roe. Seasonings and spices, including chilli pepper, marinate the cod roe. Mentaiko is so full of flavour and pairs perfectly with soba noodles.
I buy mentaiko from a Japanese grocery shop in Saigon. If you don’t have such a store near you, you can purchase it online in canned form from Amazon.
The pink surimi (kamaboko)
Apart from the shrimp, which almost passes for pink, the naruto kamaboko also adds to this dish’s pinkness. This surimi, or fish cake, consists of pureed deboned white fish. After flavouring and colour are added, the paste is steamed until cooked and firm.
In addition to the cured mentaiko, seasoning is provided by drizzling tsuyu over the pink soba noodles. Tsuyu is widely used as a seasoning in many Japanese dishes. Consisting of dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sometimes sake adds saltiness, sweetness, and umami to the flavour profile, enhancing almost anything it is served with, including this seafood soba.
Pink soba and Mentaiko
- 200 g pink soba noodles kanesu soba
- 2 tsp crushed or grated garlic
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 450 g assorted naruto kamaboko Japanese surimi – the pink and white sort
- 30 g Mentaiko spicy cured cod roe, get from an Asian grocery
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp roasted sesame seed oil
- Bring a saucepan of well salted water to a boil.
- Cook the kanesu soba according to the instructions on the packet. 5 to 6 minutes should do it.
- Cool under running water and drain.
- Toss with the sesame oil.
- Combine the ingredients in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil then remove from the heat.
- Reheat if necessary before serving.
- In a large pan or wok, sauté the garlic and ginger in vegetable oil.
- Add the naruto kamaboko and stir fry until heated through.
- Add the noodles and 30 g of mentaiko and toss to combine and heat through.
- Plate the noodles and top with the other 30 g of mentaiko. Drizzle over some tsuyu.
- Garnish with sea grapes and a shrimp.