A simple soup that’s as rich in symbolism as it is in flavour and comfort, with soy-soaked cabbage and a salty-sour pickle for good luck
This soup is based on the Japanese toshikoshi soba soup, or ‘year-crossing noodle’, a piping-hot noodle soup packed with symbolism.
Traditionally, it’s eaten on New Year’s Eve to reflect on the past year and welcome the new one, but it’s never too late. The idea is to enjoy a long, peaceful life with each slurp and break free from the past as the noodle breaks easily with each bite. In its simplest form it is made using buckwheat soba noodles and a hot dashi broth, but I’ve taken liberties and bolstered it with soy-caramelised cabbage and some turnip pickles.
Soba noodle soup with caramelised cabbage and pickles
Turnips can be hard to find, so if you can’t get hold of any, use beetroot instead. Kombu is available from Asian supermarkets or online. There are pure buckwheat soba noodles and those mixed with wheat: I find the latter easier to work with – Clearspring make good ones, and they’re available in large supermarkets.
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr
For the cabbage
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 large red cabbage (around 800g), cored and chopped into 1cm pieces
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp fine sea salt
For the soup
1 large piece kombu (about 50g)
4 tbsp brown rice miso
4 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp mirin
200g soba noodles
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
60g watercress, stalky ends removed
For the turnip pickle
2 small turnips (around 200g), peeled, cut into thick matchsticks
½ tsp fine sea salt
100ml rice vinegar
Start with the cabbage. Heat a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the oil, then the cabbage and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking, for 30 minutes. Add the mirin, vinegar and salt, and cook for 20 minutes more, by which time the cabbage should be caramelised and very tender.
While the cabbage is cooking, get the soup base started. In a medium saucepan, bring one and a half litres of water to a boil, lower the heat to a whisper, add the kombu and simmer for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the kombu with a pair of tongs and discard. Whisk the miso, soy sauce and mirin into the hot broth and leave to one side.
Next, pickle the turnips. In a jug, mix the salt into the vinegar and 100ml freshly boiled water, then pour over the turnip in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Cook the buckwheat noodles according to the packet instructions, taking a minute off the cooking time, then drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a bowl and mix through the toasted sesame oil.
To assemble, divide the noodles between four bowls. Gently heat up the broth, pour it over the noodles, then top with the caramelised soy cabbage, watercress and pickled turnips, and serve.
original source: Theguardian