I like the mix of flavours between those tiny sweet dried shrimps and the heady truffle oil. Then, there is the briny salty crunch of the tobiko (caviar) and cool cucumbers. If you like truffle oil, this noodle dish will suit you just fine.

These noodles are similar to one served at a Japanese eatery that I patronize.  They are getting increasingly popular and it is is no longer easy securing a table at short notice. On my last visit, I watched carefully as this dish was prepared. This rendition comes close to what they serve but of course it will never be as good as theirs.

Scroll down midway for the recipe, otherwise, read on about my short trip to Tokyo.

What did I do in Tokyo? Nothing much. The goal was to eat and that we did very well. With dessert twice a day for 4 straight days! Clearly the food got past my lips and into my mouth faster than my brain could process the words “No, don’t do it!”.

The Japanese have such wonderfully marbled beef.

Not only did I have dessert twice a day – after lunch and dinner, it was not uncommon for me to order 2 plates of dessert per sitting. I know. There is no excuse. I am greedy. It helps that Japanese wait staff are nonjudgmental. None of them ever batted an eyelid whenever my dining partner and I ordered 4 desserts between the 2 of us. I have attached pictures of some of my favourite desserts for you to drool over.  Excuse me now, while I go back on the treadmill. You drool on.

Update: Want to view a few more drool worthy pictures from my latest food trip to Tokyo, click, Green Tea Cookies With Citrusy Yuzu Peel & A Sampling Of My Latest Tokyo Food Excursion.

Henri Charpentier cafe at Nihonbashi Takashimya. Crepe Suzette. So silky. The caramelised sauce had just the right amount of Grand Marnier and sweetness -I so wanted to pick up the plate to lick it all up.


Henri Charpentier cafe at Nihonbashi Takashimya. It is chestnut season now. Their Mont Blanc had the best taste of chestnuts yet it was the lightest of all the Mont Blanc I had had in Tokyo.


Henri Charpentier cafe at Nihonbashi Takashimya. Mille Crepe. Perfect. Sometimes too much of a good thing can make you feel ill. Not this. It is almost as light as a feather.


See the bowl of jewelled dessert (anmitsu) below? I want more! Toraya is a well established producer of traditional Japanese confections. With a history going back to the 16th century, they certainly know how to make their sweets. It was the only sweet shop I had to make a return trip to. I was at their cafes in Ginza and the basement food hall of Isetan Shinjuku. The bowl of anmitsu had these bouncy
, coloured agar (jelly). Each coloured jelly was flavoured differently. The beans were barely sweetened. The white mochi balls (shiratama dango) are so smooth. The red bean paste (anko) even smoother. Finally, the pink rectangular shaped confection (gyuhi) were a softer and less glutinous version of mochi. It was so good, I hunted them down and bought 3 boxes!  The whole dessert is drizzled with a black sugar syrup (koromitsu) (spot it in that little glass jar above the spoon). Then, you wash it all down with a well whisked, frothy matcha green tea. 

At Takashimaya Patissieria situated in the basement food hall of Takashimaya Shinjuku, let your eyes feast over 100 cakes, chosen from some of the best Tokyo patisseries. How convenient and all sized down to fit your plate! That orange concoction had a base layer of biscuit, then a light sponge, a lightly flavoured and textured orange cream with a smidgen of chocolate in its centre. It was brushed with an intensely orange flavoured glaze. Loved that!

Japanese Inspired Truffle Noodles With Tiny Shrimps, Tobiko & Cucumbers

Prep: 20 minutes 
Cook: 10 minutes or less
Inactive:
Level: Moderate
Makes: 2
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? No

Ingredients

Measurements for this recipe are approximates as salt levels in ingredients varies across labels. So adjust amount of ingredients to suit your taste.

1 large pot of water
1 Tablespoon of salt
~8.8oz (250g) somenOR ~250g angel hair pasta
~1 small seedless cucumber (to get ~1 cup worth)**
~3 Tablespoons (0.35oz)(10g) finely chopped chives
~4 Tablespoons tiny dried Japanese shrimps (sakura ebi)***
~1.7oz (50g) of any one of the 4 fish roe below:
Japanese flying fish roe (tobiko)*
Japanese shrimp roe (ebiko)**
Japanese salmon roe (ikura shoyu)***
Lumpfish roe****
~6 + 1.5 Tablespoons truffle oil
~1.5 Tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce*
~3 Tablespoons of furikake (any flavour)**
* Very narrow-width Japanese wheat noodles. Often sold dried. Available in Asian grocery stores and most supermarkets. I use gluten free somen made with rice floor. The brand I use is very good. It is made in Japan by Kobayashi Noodle Co. Ltd., and is sold under the label ‘Gluten Free Meister’.  Refer to photograph of ingredients. I bought mine from a gourmet supermarket but I noticed that Amazon sells them.
** I use cucumbers labelled as ‘Japanese or Kyuri Cucumbers’. They are ~1″ (2.5 cm) in diameter and ~10″ (20.5 cm) in length.  Skins and seeds which are underdeveloped can be eaten and are ideal for salads and sandwiches. If you don’t have access to these, you would mostly likely have to peel your cucumbers and if the seeds are large and unpalatable, discard them. Image below.
*** Japanese dried shrimps are not at all ‘fishy’ tasting. They have a clean, salty flavour with a clear ‘umami’ taste and a touch of sweetness. Most often use as a topping over rice, fried rice, in okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancakes), fried noodles,…  Available in Asian grocery stores and some supermarkets. Do not substitute with any other Asian variety of dried shrimp. They are too salty and too large. Refer to image below.
* Tobiko are crunchy little fish roe marinated primarily in soy sauce and sugar. Pleasantly sweet and salty . I like it better than european caviar. Often orange in colour but it does come in black, green.. depends on what they use to flavour and dye it.  Often used in sushi. For instance, California Rolls. Buy Japanese ones. Featured in image of ingredients.
** Japanese shrimp roe which is a slightly cheaper alternative to tobiko. It’s a little smaller in size and the next best substitute. Primarily seasoned the same way as tobiko. Buy Japanese ones. 
*** Japanese salmon roe I find very tasty but they are more expensive. To save cost, use ~ 1/2 the amount and buy Japanese ones.
**** A cheaper alternative to caviar. Season with a tiny bit of soy sauce and more sugar to achieve a similar taste to the Japanese roes.
The Japanese brand of soy sauce, Kikkoman, is my pantry staple. Use your choice of light soy sauce but you might have to adjust the level of salt.
** This is a Japanese dried pre-mix seasoning used to flavour cooked rice by sprinkling over it. It is salty and the dried pre-mix seasoning comes in a myriad of combinations. Typically, it would have seaweed, sesame seeds, sugar, and then, comes the variation, perhaps, tuna, salmon, cheese, green tea, … . I use this as it adds that final touch of seasoning and saltiness to the noodles. I like that it has seaweed and sesame seeds. Available in Asian grocery stores and some supermarkets. Even if you do not read Japanese, you can easily spot it on the supermarket shelves. There will inevitably be a nice picture shot of a bowl of rice and some kind of furikake sprinkled over it. Refer to the image below. 


Different brands of somen
Japanese or Kyuri cucumbers. Skin and underdeveloped seeds are all edible.

‘Sakura Ebi’ – Japanese dried shrimps are very different from other Asian varieties. Clean tasting, with an ‘umami’ flavour, a little sweet and much less salty.


‘Furikake’ are dried flakes of deliciousness for topping over many food items. Scroll down to my ‘Tips’ section for ideas with images included.

Method

Prep work
1. Slice the cucumbers into very narrow, short matchsticks, ~ 3/4″(2 cm) long. (Refer to the image of ingredients above). Blot off excess liquid gently with kitchen paper towels. Do not squeeze the cucumbers dry.  You need ~1 cup worth. Set aside.
2. Slice the chives finely.  Set aside.
3. Mix 1.5 Tablespoons soy sauce with 1.5 Tablespoons truffle oil.  Whisk to mix.  Set aside.
4. In a mixing bowl, pour in 2 Tablespoons truffle oil. Set aside.
5. Place that same Tablespoon next to the truffle oil.  You will be reusing it.
6. Have all other ingredients within easy reach. You will have to start assembling as soon as the somen/pasta is ready.

Cook the somen/pasta
1. Fill a pot with plenty of water and get it to a rolling boil.
2. When the water comes to rolling boil, add 1 Tablespoon salt and wait for the water to come back to a rolling boil. Then, cook the somen/angel hair pasta according to package directions.
3. For gluten free somen, after it is cooked, plunge them in cold water to loosen and to prevent them from sticking. Drain just before your are ready to use it.

Assembling
1. I use 2 pairs of chopsticks for tossing as I find that it does a more efficient and gentler job than a pair of tongs. If you do not mind getting your hands oily, use your cleaned hands.
2. Once somen/pasta is ready, drain completely and transfer into the mixing bowl where you had added the 2 Tablespoons truffle oil. Toss to coat.
3. Re-whisk the 1.5 Tablespoons soy sauce + 1.5 Tablespoons truffle oil before adding that in next. Take your time to mix it in well.
4. Let the somen/pasta cool slightly before, adding the dried Japanese shrimps, roe, chives and drizzle 2 Tablespoons of truffle oil over. Toss gently to mix.

5. Add the cucumbers and 1 Tablespoon truffle oil and mix gently.

6. Finally, quickly mix in the furikake.

7. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add more of any one or more of the ingredients to suit your taste. I tend more often than not to have to adjust the quantity of dried Japanese shrimps and furikake as the saltiness/sweetness level varies across brands. Furikake can be particularly salty.
8. Plate and drizzle a little truffle oil over each plate of noodles.
9. Serve immediately. This is not a hot pasta. It is served at room temperature. Goes well with a bowl of hot japanese soup. Recipe –> Dashi Stock for Japanese Clear Soups Or Miso Soups.

Tips

What to do with the remaining furikake?

(1) For a super quick side dish. Sprinkle over some cold tofu.

(2) Sprinkle over boiled or steam vegetables. I like it over potatoes and cauliflower. It does not taste good over green leafy vegetables

(3) My favourite way to use up furikake! Cook some pasta. Bring some whipping/cooking cream to a boil, add some salt, toss pasta into the cream. Plate and then sprinkle over the furikake.

(4) Use it the conventional way.  Sprinkled over cooked rice. For instructions on how to cook Japanese rice, view my post, Salmon On Rice. You will find instructions for cooking over a stove top and in a rice cooker.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

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