These savory noodles are deeply satisfying, even though they are made from only five ingredients. Walnuts give them a deep autumnal flavor that feels just right for the season, and although they’re a very traditional Japanese dish, everybody loves them. Best eaten at room temperature, they perfectly bridge the gap from summer into fall.
Noodles with Walnut Sauce
1 c. (237 ml) soy sauce
1/4 c. (60 ml) mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1/2 c. (50 g) sugar
1-1/3 c. (316 ml) dashi broth (or use 1 t. (3 g) instant dashi granules* in 1-1/3 c. hot water)
1/2 c. (57 g) shelled walnuts
1 pkg. Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles or whole wheat spaghetti noodles. (One bundle of soba per person or 1/4 package of spaghetti noodles per person.)
Put mirin in a small saucepan and boil for a minute or two, until you can’t smell alcohol anymore. Stir in the sugar and keep stirring until it dissolves.
Add the soy sauce and bring it almost to a boil.
Let cool to room temperature.
Add 6 T. (180 ml) of this mixture to the cooled dashi broth.**
Grind the walnuts until they resemble cornmeal (not peanut butter).
Add the sauce to the ground nuts a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency you want. If you’re dipping the noodles, make it a little thinner; if you’re tossing them together before serving them, leave it a little thicker.
Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, adding a minute of time to the spaghetti recommendation or 30 seconds for soba. I’m a die-hard al dente pasta eater, but in this case, softer noodles give a more authentic experience.
Rinse the noodles well under cold water to remove the extra starch that makes them stick together.
Toss noodles with sauce and top with sliced green onions.
Or serve out the plain noodles individually, with a bowl of dipping sauce on the side.
*You can buy instant Hon-Dashi at Asian markets or online
**This concoction is not just the basic component of Nutty Noodle sauce, but is the basic building block of many Japanese soups. It will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a year, ready to be used at a moment’s notice for a quick & delicious meal or to add flavor to your rice cooking water.
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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly Japanagram newsletter, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had