Soba Noodle Soup in Shiitake Shoyu Broth with Asparagus, Leeks and Tofu – Recipe

Soba Noodle Soup in Shiitake Shoyu Broth with Asparagus, Leeks and Tofu

I get a little jealous of meat eaters with their delicious looking Asian noodle soups. I wanted to create a very full flavored broth with lots of umami intensity. I made it with dried shiitakes, kombu, and the best shoyu I have ever tasted.

If you haven't had soba before, they are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. They are often served cold with a dipping sauce, but are equally great in soup. The buckwheat flavor is distinctively nutty and earthy. It has a peculiar resonance for me because it reminds me of the kasha that my eastern European Jewish family served growing up. Funny how the same flavor can appear succesfully in such different contexts. The same dish could be made with ramen or udon noodles and still be delicious.

The toppings for this soup are a nice transition from winter to spring. We have the leeks and dried mushrooms that are a mainstay of the cold weather months, and asparagus and eggs which have always symbolized spring. A few green onions add a bright top note, and the soft tofu brings another texture and some protein. I'm not sure I can think of anything I'd rather eat on a rainy day. Of course you can vary the toppings to suit your mood and the contents of your vegetable drawer.

So I mentioned great shoyu. Shoyu is the Japanese name for soy sauce. This Ohsawa Organic Unpasteurized Nama Shoyu is to most other shoyu as parmigiano reggiano is to the stuff in the green can. The flavor is more complex and caramelized, less salty, and with no chemical edge. Because it is unpasteurized it is also (claimed to be) a source for healthy digestive probiotic bacteria. I plan to never be without it in my pantry.

The eggs are cooked using my favorite technique for soft or hard boiled eggs. They are placed in a pan of cold water, brought to a boil and then the heat is turned off and they are covered. For soft-boiled, you use about 4 minutes, and for hard-boiled, 12 is good. For this dish I used 8 minutes, which gives a terrific texture. The whites and yolk are both set, but the yolk is ever so slightly underdone, bright yellow and translucent. The whites remain tender and unrubbery. Try it, I think you'll like it.

I'm having you make more noodles than you will probably need because the next recipe I post will be for a crispy soba pancake made from the leftovers. Crispy I say.

Soba in Shoyu Broth with Asparagus, Leeks and Tofu
Vegetarian; vegan if you omit the eggs; not gluten-free
Serves 4

  • 2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 healthy piece of kombu seaweed (about 6" – 8" long)
  • 1 small piece (1/2") fresh ginger, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely choppd
  • 4 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and carefully cleaned
  • 4 eggs
  • 12 oz. silken or soft tofu, cubed
  • 1 large bunch of thick asparagus, tough parts removed and lightly peeled
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • shoyu (Japanese soy sauce; see note above about best brand)
  • 1 lb. dry soba noodles
  • toasted sesame oil
  1. Briefly rinse the dried shiitakes and bring them, along with the kombu, ginger and garlic to a simmer in 8 cups of water. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the leeks and simmer for 10 more minutes or until the leeks are tender. Remove the leeks with a slotted spoon and reserve. Discard the kombu. Strain the broth, squeezing out as much from the mushrooms as possible. Slice some of the shiitake caps thinly for service, and discard the rest.
  3. Add 3 tablspoons of the shoyu to the broth. Taste and add more if needed.
  4. Meanwhile, put the eggs in a small pot, covered with cold water by 1/2". Bring the pot to a boil over a high flame, then cover and remove from the heat. Let sit for exactly 8 minutes, then shock in cold water and peel. 
  5. Brush the asparagus with oil and grill in a single layer (a grill pan works fine). If you can't grill, do them in a single layer in a large skillet. Cook until tender and charred spots are appearing on all sides.
  6. Boil the soba noodles according to the package directions and strain. Bring the broth back to a simmer.
  7. To serve, put about 1 cup of noodles in each of 4 heated bowls. Cut the eggs in half. Top the noodles with the leeks, eggs, asparagus, sliced shiitake caps, tofu and green onions. Take your time to make an attractive arrangement. Ladle in about 1.5 cups of the broth. Drizzle in a few drops of the sesame oil and serve it forth.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Wednesday, April 15th, 2009 in Kid Friendly, Recipes, Soups, Vegan or Modifiable.

22 Responses to “Soba Noodle Soup in Shiitake Shoyu Broth with Asparagus, Leeks and Tofu – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    April 15, 2009 at 11:15 pm #

    Any kind of veg noodle soup is my very favorite kind of meal. I wouldn’t have thought to use eggs – my mind naturally goes to tofu. But this looks delicious and so artfully (and appetizingly) presented.

  2. Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 7:23 am #

    Michael — Have you tried the tofu from NW Tofu on Jackson & 17th? Traca turned me onto it. Amazing! Do you have a recommendation for soba noodle brands, beyond fresh noodles?

  3. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 16, 2009 at 8:24 am #

    I had lunch at NW Tofu once but didn’t buy a pound to take home. I’ll have
    to try it. I really like the tofu from Thanh Son Tofu on 12th between Yesler
    and Fir as well. It is fairly firm and yet really creamy and flavorful. They
    also offer a few varieties of pre-deep-fried puffs, which are great, and
    fresh soymilk. For this recipe I like the silken/soft tofu, which Thanh Son
    doesn’t have. Do you know if NW does? It would be great to have a local
    source for that.

    p.s. thanks for the tip on the Ipod repair (on twitter)

  4. Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    Wow, I’m hungry now! I’ll have to keep an eye out for the Ohsawa shoyu. It sounds fantastic.

  5. Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

    oh man, this looks so darn good. I am making it this week. Decided. The broth looks soo good.

    can you get that rather special soy sauce locally?

    Love the photo too.

  6. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 16, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

    Thanks Matt. The Ohsawa shoyu is available at Whole Foods for sure, and I
    think maybe PCC &/or Madison Market – look in the raw foods section. I’m not
    a big raw foodie, but this stuff is a winner. Congrats on the restaurant!

  7. Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    Soba noodles are definitely a favorite around here. I love eating simple, but extremely satisfying meals like this

  8. Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

    Drooooooooool. Looks perfect for a cold spring night, like tonight. I will be making this! Thanks for the yummy post.
    Dana Zia

  9. Reply
    April 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

    My mouth is watering! I like to think I can taste with my brain and, oh my. My brain is drooling too.

  10. Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    Yum! I find myself bookmarking like every recipe on here. Except all your restaurant reviews make me wish I had discovered your blog while I still lived in Seattle…

  11. Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 7:14 am #

    Holy moly, this looks great! I’m a super carnivore, and you have me positively drooling! 😀 Thanks, too, for the recommendation for the shoyu. Yum!


  12. Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Looks delicious… what kind of tofu is that? Thanks!

  13. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    I don’t remember what the brand was, but it was a “silken” style tofu from
    whole foods. From the refrigerator case of course; those shelf-stable tofus
    are not good.

  14. Reply
    April 17, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

    This sounds delicious, but ‘crispy soba pancake’ sounds even better! Looking forward to that post 🙂

  15. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    April 18, 2009 at 7:19 am #

    Thanks Julie!

  16. Reply
    April 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    This looks amazing. I’m looking forward to trying it.

  17. Reply
    April 19, 2009 at 7:35 am #

    This looks delicious Michael!

  18. Reply
    April 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm #

    I love your comparison of the shoyu and parmigiano to lesser versions of the same….hehe.

  19. Reply
    April 22, 2009 at 6:26 pm #

    this looks amazing! I am making it tonight!

  20. Reply
    David Cardinez
    April 28, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    why the fuck would anybody put that in their mouth. go get a fucking steak you pussies.

  21. Reply
    April 28, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    I see eating meat has certainly made you a happy, enjoyable person. I know what I usually do in my free time (and I assume you probably have an overabundance of it) is troll and lurk on blogs waiting to leave my little treats of discontent anywhere I might find an idea, or way of thinking that doesn’t coexsist with mine, or challenges the very fiber of my existence (and no I wouldn’t say a recipe for soba noddles should normally provide such a life challenge – but in those rare human cases of single celled exsistence I could see how something so “different” might be frightening or enraging). You really have shown us ‘pussies’ a thing or two, and for that I am thankful! My life is now more enriched and elevated by your exlimation of defiance. Well, I have to go.. it seems I have some lives to shatter with my personal and dietary choices. Look out Texas, I’m aiming high!

  22. Reply
    July 5, 2009 at 5:22 am #

    This is totally delicious! I wonder what’s your profession? A dietitian?

    Angie’s Recipes

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