Does our reporter’s attempt cut the mustard?

Our reporter K. Masami often travels to Kyoto, and when she does she’s sure to check out one of the many Cantonese-style Chinese restaurants there. Although they serve a slew of great food, the thing that keeps her coming back for more is the mustard soba (karashi soba).

This dish is rather unique to Kyoto and was said to have been developed by Chinese restauranteurs who moved from the Kanto area and wanted to adapt to Kyoto tastes. 

Masami first tried it on a whim while ordering what she saw other customers eating. What came out was a rather unassuming dish of stir-fried noodles, but the server warned her to “be careful because there’s mustard in the noodles.”

This dish uses a hot mustard, known as”karashi” in Japanese.

Sure enough, it had a blast of flavor that made Masami an instant fan. Now, every time she visits Kyoto, she tries it at a different restaurant to compare, but loves it every time. And through these repeated visits she feels she may have figured out how to make mustard soba by herself. It seems to use basic ingredients so she went to her local supermarket to gather everything.

The essential ingredients are mustard paste and Chinese noodles. A cheap tube of mustard paste will do just fine but while noodles are easy to find it might be hard to get restaurant-quality ones. The other ingredients Masami got were chicken stock, shrimp, wood ear mushrooms, lettuce, green onions, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, and chicken breast, though thigh meat will do if breast is unavailable.

The first step is to prepare the sauce. She mixed the chicken stock with hot water and added it to the chicken, shrimp, and vegetables as she stir-fried them until everything is covered in sauce. Next, she let it all simmer.

When it came to a gentle boil, she added the potato starch mixed with water to thicken it. She felt the taste was a little thin so she added salt and pepper to spice it up a bit.

You’ve probably noticed that so far no mustard has been used. That’s because Masami learned from watching the kitchen staff at restaurants that the mustard is applied directly to the noodles rather than the sauce.

So, she prepared a bowl with a mixture of mustard paste, vinegar, and soy sauce, and added the lightly boiled noodles to it.

The balance of these three flavors can be adjusted for personal taste. In Masami’s case, she likes bold tanginess so she used two and a half tablespoons of mustard and two tablespoons of vinegar.

After mixing the noodles into the flavorings she placed them on a plate and covered them with the sauce.

All in all, it was pretty easy to make mustard soba. Of course, she didn’t quite reach that restaurant-quality taste, but she was close enough to feel satisfied with it.

As with any home-cooking, lessons are learned along the way. For example, in this dish, Masami found that she added the potato starch too early. The texture of the sauce would turn out much better if she had waited and added it just before serving.

Also, since its easy to make and can use common ingredients, Masami often whips it up for a quick lunch when needed. It’s an addictive taste, so if you’re one of the many people who can’t easily get out to a Cantonese restaurant in Kyoto, this is definitely the next best thing.

Photos © SoraNews24
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