Friday, July 25, 2014

By AUDREY WILSON

I read with interest a Facebook posting and photo of Okinawan soki soba by Keith of Torrance, Calif., a good friend of our sons, Reid and Neil. He commented that the soki soba from Kotohira Noodles in Gardena, Calif., is out of this world!

So on a recent trip to Los Angeles, I was determined to try the Okinawan soki soba at Kotohira Noodles, located in Tozai Plaza at Redondo Boulevard and Western Avenue. If you happen to be in L.A. and have a yearning for Asian food, this is the place to be. Pho So is a Vietnamese Restaurant, Hironaya has Japanese food with bento and kaisen food, Lee's Tofu has a sign outside about the good amino acids, proteins and fats in tofu. (Keith says their tofu soup is delicious.) Furaibo is an izakaya restaurant with pupu dishes that can be ordered with your cocktails.

We sat in the parking lot until 11:30 a.m., when Kotohira Noodles opened its doors. There were seven of us waiting to get in for lunch.

So what is soki soba? It is Okinawan soba noodles in a pork bone stock, topped with shoyu pork rib, a couple slices of kamaboko, sliced green onions and slivered pickled young ginger. The Okinawan niku yasai soba is topped with rafute or shoyu belly pork, kamaboko, green onions and pickled ginger.

To make Okinawan soba, you must have wood ashes from a wood burning stove. Get one cup of ashes and place in jar with 3 cups of water. Allow to sit overnight. In the morning, carefully take the clear top of the liquid, strain this ash water through cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

OKINAWAN SOBA

NOODLES

3 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoon salt

1 cup ash water

Mix together and knead for 30 minutes. Divide into four balls, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for one hour at room temperature. Roll out as you would with pasta and cut to fettuccini size, about 1/2 inch thick.

Here is Beth Ann Nishijima's rafute, or Okinawan shoyu pork, from "What the Big Island Likes to Eat." In Okinawa, belly pork would probably be used, but Beth Ann's recipe, using pork butt is less fatty.

NORI'S SAIMIN'S RAFUTE

Serves 10-12

1 approximately 7 pounds pork butt

1 inch-long chunk of ginger, peeled

7 cloves garlic, smashed

1 cup awamori (Okinawan sake) or regular dry sake

2 cups soy sauce

Vegetable oil, enough to coat pan

Hawaiian chili pepper to taste

Trim the excess fat from the pork butt and discard. Cut the pork into chunks, cutting against the grain. The chunks should measure approximately 3-by-7 inches.

Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven and deep fry with a cover. Add the garlic and three chunks of ginger. Add the pork and brown it on all sides. Do not crowd the pork in the pot; if you do, it will steam rather than brown.

You will probably have to brown the pork in several batches.

When all the pork has been browned, return it to the pot. Add the sugar, shoyu, and the rest of the ginger, and bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Before it begins to caramelize or thicken, add the sake, let it cook another 10 minutes.

Finally, add the chili pepper. Turn the heat to simmer, place lid on the pot, let simmer for 30 minutes or until pork is tender. Before cutting the pork, let it sit for 15 minutes. The pork should be very tender. If you want the sauce to be a little thicker, just add a bit more sugar, and heat again on high.

I usually make beni shoga when the farmers have young ginger at the Farmers Market. The pickled ginger is an important component to soki soba.

PICKLED YOUNG GINGER

(BENI SHOGA)

2 quarts young ginger, cleaned, peeled and sliced thinly

3 tablespoons coarse salt

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups rice vinegar

3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon red food coloring

In a stainless steel bowl, place sliced ginger and salt. Mix well and let stand overnight. The next day, squeeze all water from the ginger. Do not wash off the salt. Bring sugar, vinegar, water, and food coloring to a rolling boil. Sterilize mason jars, place ginger and pour hot vinegar mixture over ginger, let stand to cool.

Now we need to make the soup broth for the soki and niju yasai soba.

SOBA BROTH

2 1/2 pounds pork spare ribs

3 quarts water

1 1/2 cups bonito flakes (katsuo-boshi found in Oriental section and looks like wood shavings)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon shoyu

Remove excess fat from ribs. Cover the ribs with boiling water, drain and rinse. Add 3 1/2 quarts fresh water to ribs and bring to boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Skim off the foam and simmer another 90 minutes.

Place soba in bowl, garnish with rafute slices, kamaboko (2 slices), green onions (about 1 tablespoon, sliced thinly) and 1 tablespoon slivered pickled ginger.

SMALL BITES

The word "soki" is the Okinawan word for the pork ribs used to make the broth and then as a topping.

FOODIE BITES

Alan Wong's "Farmer Series" featuring Dr. Lorna Tsutsumi of UH-Hilo and her Hilo honey will be Wednesday, Aug. 3. Call for reservations at (808) 949-2526 from 5 to 10 p.m.

The Hilo Orchid Society's preview "safari" is Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Edith Kanakaole Stadium. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased by calling Danny Robinson at 557-8886 or the Kuikahi Mediation Center at 935-7844, ext. 3.

Please feel free to e-mail me at wilson.audrey@hawaiiantel.net if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.

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