Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soba In Shallot & Chilli Oil

A photo I took on 21 November 2010, when I visited Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto. These are paper prayers and wishes ... folded and tied.

Some of you may remember that I was in Japan just 4 months ago. I have been looking at my old posts and personal photos ... and when I think of what this beautiful country is going through this moment, my heart just breaks.

Every day that I see those poignant images of bravery and selflessness against a backdrop of destruction and death, I think how amazing the Japanese are. Their indomitable spirit, cohesiveness, integrity - all truly remarkable. My neighbour, whose family is in Japan, shared some anecdotes with me.

Immediately after the quake, people who ran out of the supermarkets, went back in to pay for the items they were holding onto ... and the cashiers still took the time and effort to bow and thank each and every customer.

Despite the fear of food shortages, people continue buying in quantities just enough for themselves. No hoarding, or worse, looting.

And get this: during the quake, at junctions, pedestrians still observed traffic rules and waited (as they swayed) for the green man before crossing, despite feeling the earth move under their feet! Anywhere else in the world, I betcha you'd have seen screaming and fleeing in all 4 directions! How they maintain such calm and order is unbelievable.

All these - and the tons of other heartwarming stories we have read and heard - tell a lot; for it is only in the time of crisis that a nation reveals its true face. I'll say it again, the Japanese are amazing. The road to rebuilding may be challenging and arduous, but if anyone do it - and do it spectacularly well - it's them.

Ganbatte, Nihon! May you return stronger than ever.

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So, no surprises that I am sharing with you a Japanese dish today - a humble bowl of soba. I found the recipe from inSing and here's the description of it:

"Here, soba is served hot with a flavoured oil that is used to fry shallots, garlic and chilli. By using the less pungent dried shrimp instead of dried prawns (hei bi) you get a more subtle taste. In case you are not sure what dried shrimps are, they are much smaller and a light brown colour compared to dried prawns. You should be able to find them in most supermarket shelves under dried goods. The shrimps also take well to toasting in the oven, which allows them to crisp up nicely as a final addition to the soba."

Hope you'll all like this as much as I did.

(from Mervyn Phan at inSing)

Serves 4
- 4 portions of soba (buckwheat) noodles
- 1/2 cup canola or sunflower oil
- 6 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dried baby shrimp (I used sakura ebi which I got from Meidi-ya ... yes, long before 11 March)
- 2 chilli padi, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper

1. Toast the baby shrimp for 15 minutes in a 180°C oven until crispy.
* Note: I panfried them without oil, then set aside.

2. Fry the shallots in the oil for about 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic and chilli halfway through. Allow to cool slightly.

3. Cook the soba noodles in salted boiling water until al dente.

4. Toss the soba in the warm oil with the shallots, garlic and chili.

5. Divide and serve with a generous sprinkle of the shrimp and a crack of black pepper.

Note: You can vary the proportions. I used a lot more shallots and a little less oil.


  1. Oooh I just bought some sakura ebi as well, I'll try this method of cooking them :D

  2. I grew up eating lots of soba because I have a Japanese parent. I have never tried soba with chilli oil though. The ingredients certainly looks simple, yet yummy. This has made me crave for some soba again. Time to get hold of some 100% buckwheat noodles:)

  3. The noodles look really good. I'm also really glad you wrote this post. I really like your tribute to Japan. I also want to find some ways to help the people there out. What happened there is just heart-breaking, but I'm glad that the people at Japan are so kind hearted and orderly.

  4. This is a beautiful post, and a wonderful tribute to the Japanese people. I love your photo, and your depth of field really accentuates the subject. Kudos to you!

  5. I love having soba noodles with lao gan ma!

  6. The Japanese people are amazing in terms of resilience! And you're right, they are so orderly and there was definitely no looting or hoarding! I saw footage of crowded trains stations and airports and everyone was queueing properly and there was no chaos. That, to me, is a civilised society! Salute to the Japanese!

  7. Great post. My heart goes out to the Japanese people! May they find the strength to rebuild! I love having some soba noodles around for a quick meal fix!

  8. A great post ! and a simple yet yummy soba dish.

  9. Yes, I hope they return stronger than ever! Lovely dish Ju!

  10. Really like your tribute to Japanese people, and I really love the way you write!

  11. Yes a beautiful post..I love the prayers:) And the stories you tell of interesting and uplifting.
    My husband said the same thing..
    They will rise up.. If anyone can..they can..
    It was with great sorrow that we watched the events also.
    On another note..your dish looks yummy and the photos also:)

  12. Lovely sentiments :) Japanese are tough and resilient people, with all our help they will recover and rebuild. My thoughts with them always...

  13. Such a beautiful post is a sad time for such a wonderful people. An amazing tribute!
    I will prepare this for my son who is in love with Japanese food, people and language...he will love this and so will I.

  14. In fact, this is the dried ebi I am using for my cooking, even for Chinese cooking as I can't get good Hei-Bi here.

    Love the simplicity of this dish - if only, shallots can be toasted to fragrance just like they are being fried. ;p

  15. what an insightful post. Such attitude will lift them higher and higher!

    I love the idea of using the shallot oil esp with the baby shrimps! what a simple but flavoursome dish!

  16. it is the same with us when we saw photos we taken in Christchurch last November .... so sad.

  17. Hope that Japan will recover soon!
    Your is soba is lovely!

  18. This dish is elegant in its simplicity! The Japanese are a stoic people and I pray they will recover stronger.

  19. your styling has improved so much over the years! loving your photos!

  20. You're right, the Japanese are amazing. I couldn't get over their calm order when I saw the news. Any other country in the world everyone would be in panic. They amaze me in terms of their strength and resilience.

    This dish looks delicious. So simple, but so yummy. I love soba noodles.

  21. Simple and extremely pretty. Japanese people will survive and grow even stronger. Soba does have its own distinctive taste, that the simplest sauce can magnify it greatly.