Refreshing Cold noodle soup ♥
Cold noodle soup is one of my all time favorite summer dishes EVER! I love to make the broth in advance and keep it in the fridge. That way I can have a bowl of refreshing cold noodle soup ready in no time! To top it off, I add lots of fresh seasonal veggies and serve it with an ice cube. In your face, heat wave!!! The best thing is, once the weather gets colder, the same soup can also be served hot!
The trick for my go-to easy broth is mentsuyu, a Japanese ready made stock concentrate. I simply dilute it and season to taste with what my heart desires. BAM, the broth is done! All that’s left to do is boil the noodles and chop some veggies, and a refreshing cold noodle soup is ready!
Mentsuyu (or shortened: tsuyu) is a Japanese soup/dip concentrate made with all the flavors of a dashi broth. The rich and savory flavor of tsuyu comes from kombu, katsuobushi and/or dry shiitake mushrooms, as well as soy sauce, mirin and sake. Depending on what you’re cooking, the brand and type you just choose a suitable dilution ratio. Tsuyu is used as an all around condiment, but also in dips for tempura or noodles, soups, hot pots, donburis… The variety of uses, types and brands is huge!
Most tsuyu contains fish (katsuobushi) but there is also a vegan option availabe, using shiitake instead. (For example this one by Clearspring!) There aren’t many types to choose from here in Finland unfortunately… But, all the tsuyu I’ve tried has been salty, rich and deep in flavor with a bit of smokey notes + plenty of umami! In one word: addictive. It’s no wonder why tsuyu is such a staple in the Japanese pantry.
Store bought or home made?
I love to make my own seasoned dashi broth to achieve pretty much the same result as i would using tsuyu. Making dashi from scratch is super easy, as is making your own tsuyu! The upside for making your own is that you control what goes in to the mix: if you make your own, there won’t be any additives, like in the store bought concentrate. If additives are something you want to avoid, making your own is definitely the way to go! You can find a tsuyu recipe f.ex. at Just One Cookbook, and a vegan tsuyu at Okonomi Kitchen.
For me however, store bought tsuyu is a lifesaver when I’m busy. Using the concentrate cuts down time spent in the kitchen, and time is valuable during the short Finnish summer… I’ve used up 3 large bottles already this summer alone: #lazysummer 😀 We’ve been living off of cold noodle soup, cold soba dipped in tsuyu and chilled silken tofu in the style of Hiyayakko, which I also serve with tsuyu. But if I am completely honest, time is of essence also during the winter, so store bought tsuyu is always a key ingredient in my kitchen.
Pick & Mix!
This soup is my declaration of love for fresh seasonal veggies as well as Japanese flavors! How I season the broth is heavily influenced by Japanese flavors, but not any specific dish in particular. Japanese noodle soups are a world of their own that require a more thorough research than this simple concoction of mine! So, when I’m making my go-to quick broth, I simply dilute the tsuyu and season it with a selection of the following spices/condiments:
- yuzukosho – an aromatic and spicy yuzu paste that I am addicted to
- shichimi togarashi – Japanese “seven flavor chili pepper” that has spicy and floral notes
- fresh garlic
- fresh ginger
- lemon juice
- toasted sesame oil and/or seeds
- miso paste (or garlic miso!)
- Japanese soy sauce (light or dark, depending on other condiments and well, my mood)
- smoked soy sauce
Here in Finland many of these ingredient can be found at well equipped supermarkets, but I also shop at grocery stores specializing in Japanese and Asian cuisines. The items listed here are all pantry staples at my house, and I make sure to never run out of any of them!
My favorite flavor combinations are:
- Lemon juice + ginger + yuzukosho + soy sauce for a light and refreshing soup
- Garlic + togarashi + yuzukosho + soy sauce for some heat
- Smoked soy sauce + miso paste + sesame (oil+seeds) + garlic for something hearty, rich and savory.
Sometimes I literally throw everything but the kitchen sink to the mix 😀 In any case, the broth is super forgiving! If you make it too strong, just add water. If too thin, add more seasonings! Once mixed, keep it in the fridge and preferably consume within three days for the freshest flavor. Obviously you can also just mix this as needed – that’s when the flavor is freshest!
Top of the toppings!
Once the broth is ready to go, all that’s left to do is to cook the noodles of your choice, and chop up some seasonal veggies. My favorites are radishes, cucumber, corn, scallions, tomatoes, turnips, daikon radish, peas and carrots. And I use them all raw! On the day I shot my soup I threw in some steamed garlic scapes and bulbils 🙂 A few summers back, I experimented with gooseberries and green currants for a pop of something sour and sweet in the mix. Berries in noodle soup might sound a bit weird, I know! However, they were super nice especially in a lemony broth along with something fresh like cucumbers, radishes and summer onions 🙂
Regarding herbs and greens, shiso or perilla, watercress, mint, thai basil, sorrel or wasabi arugula are all nice here. So are quickly blanced spinach, green beans or bok choy! It’s really all up to you what you have availabe and want to add, and whether you prefer it raw or cooked.
Cold noodle soup … or wet noodle salad?
With all those veggies, my cold noodle soup is basically a wet noodle salad 😀 And that’s just how I like it! But sometimes I want to include also some protein. That’s when I plop in a chunk of chilled silken tofu (or quickly sauteed cold smoked tofu for the hot version)! If you eat fish, seafood works nicely in this too! Frozen and defrosted cooked shrimps and/or cold smoked salmon are my choices, since they require no cooking. (Psst. When using seafood I always try to go with ASC or MSC-certified options because those are what the WWF seafood guide recommends for us Finns!) But, most of the time I just want a bowl full of noodles, broth and seasonal veggies. Nothing more, nothing less – it’s perfect like so.
Refreshing cold noodle soup
- 4 portions noodles (soba, udon, somen...)
- 1,2 l water
- mentsuyu concentrate (Check the diluting ratio from the package, it's often something around 1:5-7)
Pick and mix from the following:
- ¼-1 tbsp shichimi togarashi
- ½-2 tsp yuzukosho
- ¼-½ tsp toasted sesame oil
- ½-1 tbsp miso paste
- 1-3 tbsp soy sauce
- ½-1 tbsp smoked soy sauce
- ½-1 lemon juiced
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1-3 cm fresh ginger
- 2-4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Toppings - selection of the following:
- sweet corn
- turnip / radishes / daikon radish
- peas / sugar snap peas / green beans
- spring onion / fresh summer onion
- silken tofu / cold smoked tofu (c. 100-150g per person)
- ice cubes
- fresh herbs to taste (shiso/perilla, thai basil, wasabi arugula, mint, watercress, sorrel...)
- When adding miso paste and/or yuzukosho to the broth, mix them evenly with a small amount of liquid first before adding in the whole batch. This way they will mix in easier!
- If you want to serve the soup hot, heat the broth while the noodles are cooking, and blanch your choice of veggies quickly in the broth. If I'm using lemon in hot soup, I wait until right before serving to add the lemon juice to maintain it's freshness (and some of the vitamin C).
- If you're using cold smoked tofu in the soup, I recommed quickly sauteeing it in a bit of oil before adding in to the soup!
- By the way, this is a perfect recipe to use up garlic miso, if you have made miso fermented garlic like I have (and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?)
Mixing the broth:
- Dilute the tsuyu in 1,2 liters of water as instructed in the bottle. Depending which brand you use, the ratio is different, but usually something around 1:5-8! Taste it as you mix and adjust to your personal intensity. I prefer to keep the salinity at such a level that i can add more salty seasonings like miso paste or soy sauce if I so wish!
- Season the diluted tsuyu with your selection of spices and condiments! When using garlic and ginger, peel and grate them to the broth. With each ingredient, add a little, mix and adjust unless you are familiar with the flavor already 🙂 The quantities I've given here are what I like, so please adjust them to your preference and also depending on evertying that is in your mix!
- If you aren't going to use the broth immediately, store it in the refridgerator and use within 3 days for best flavor.
Assembling the soup:
- When you are ready to assemble the soup, prep the veggies of your choice by peeling (if necessary) and chopping to bite sized pieces.
- Cook a portion of noodles per person (I often use soba here) as per instructed in the package. Go for a bit al dente rather than overcooked! Since I love to serve this soup cold, I stop the cooking process by rinsing the noodles in cold water and drain well.
- Add a portion of noodles in each bowl and top off with the veggies of your choice. If you add silken tofu, drain it a bit on top of kitchen towel to get rid of eccess moisture! Add about 3 dl of broth per bowl and garnish with herbs and an ice cube. I often add some sesame seeds on top too, as well as finely chopped scallion greens!
Ps. My drink of choice with this refreshing cold noodle soup is a sour beer like a traditional gose or berliner weisse. This Cucumber Sour by the Finnish Coolhead brew was a perfect match for my summery noodles 🙂