Now that I’ve successfully figured out how to make Japanese pancakes aka dorayaki, I’ve moved on to tackling one of my favorite noodle dishes from the amazing country: abura soba. After wandering the streets looking for somewhere to eat, I stumbled upon a small 10 seat restaurant with pictures of what looked like saute noodles on the menu. After randomly picking a dish, I was presented with what was dry ramen called “abura soba.” I have never heard of abura soba before but after having a couple bites, I was in love. A little sour, a little spicy, a little savory and oh so delicious, the bowl of noodles was something I never had before. As soon as I returned to the States, I made it my mission to recreate what I had in Japan. Unfortunately, the quality of the ingredients are sub par in the States compared to Japan, but this was the closest I can get to recreating the dish. Here is the recipe for abura soba with shoyu!
- 1 lb pork belly, skin on
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 2 tsp sake
- 2 tsp mirin
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1/2 tbsp ginger, finely minced
- 1 stalk green onion
- 1 3x3 inch kombu
- 1 ounce bonito flakes
- 4 packs Sun ramen noodles
- 1/4 cup pork fat, melted
- 2 soft boiled eggs, halved
- nori strips for garnish
- 2 green onions, chopped
- distilled white vinegar
- chili oil
- Prepare pork belly. Pat skin with paper towels until completely dry. Mix together marinade including soy sauce, sake, brown sugar, mirin and garlic. Place pork belly flesh only in the marinade, leaving the skin dry. Marinate for at least one hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Fill a roasting pan with 1 inch of water. Place a wire rack on the pan and lay the pork belly on top, skin side up. Spread the salt in an even layer on the skin. Roast for 40 minutes. Remove pork from the oven and increase the oven to 450 degrees F. Remove the salt crust from the pork and continue roasting for another 30 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Cut into bite size pieces and set aside.
- Prepare the tare. Combine all of the ingredients for the tare in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil than reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a roaring boil. Cook the noodles for 1 minute. Drain immediately.
- Add 1 tbsp shoyu tare and 1 tbsp pork fat into each bowl. Portion the noodles into the 4 bowls. Top with pork belly, egg, nori and green onions. Serve, instructing everyone to first mix their noodles. Drizzle with the desired amount of vinegar and chili oil and mix again. Enjoy.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
It wasn’t until I visited Japan that I finally found out how to make an authentic bowl of ramen. It appears that when preparing shoyu ramen 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; each recipe is guarded as a secret as it is what makes the ramen. This concept also applies for abura soba. My favorite was the shoyu abura soba, which is the dish I am preparing today. If you’re still wondering what exactly abura soba is, it is dry ramen often referred to as “soup-less oil noodles.” It is tossed with tare and pork fat than drizzled with vinegar and chili oil; trust me, it’s as delicious as a bowl of noodles can get.
Just like ramen, abura soba is topped with meat, most commonly pork belly, and other common additions such as soft boiled egg, green onions, bamboo and nori. Although chashu pork is the most popular choice, I decided to make crispy pork belly, a topping one of the restaurants in Tokyo offered.
The most important part in cooking the pork belly is to keep the skin dry in order 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. I was only preparing 2 portions so I purchased 2 thick slices of pork belly rather than one full slab.
The pork can be prepared the day before and reheated in the oven or even a toaster oven. The skin comes to a beautiful crisp while the pork belly is moist and tender, the perfect topping for this abura soba.
Because abura soba is comprised of only a few ingredients, each ingredient must be top-notch. After doing quite a bit of research, I discovered that the best brand of ramen noodles available in America is by Sun Noodle. I have tried this recipe with other brands and have found that Sun Noodles are indeed the best choice.
When cooking the noodles, keep in mind that they can very easily be over-cooked and lead to gummy noodles. 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. After discovering that each restaurant has their own tare recipe, I knew I was doomed. There was no way of replicating the exact tare that I had in Kyoto. Not only could I never find the recipe, the ingredients such as the shoyu, bonito flakes and kombu in the States would never compare to what is offered in Tokyo’s markets. 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 and have decided to settle with that.
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.