Hot Soba with Duck and Baby Leeks
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 (about 200 g) duck breast
- Salt, as needed
- 4 baby leeks or ½ regular leek, cut into 1 cm thick slices at an angle
- 600 ml dashi
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 2 portions (200 g) of dried soba noodles
- Flat-leaf parsley leaves, to garnish
- About ½ teaspoon finely grated citrus zest – any kind will do
- Shichimi pepper and/or wasabi, to taste (optional)
Pour the oil into a frying pan and place over a low heat. Season the duck breast with salt and fry, skin side down, for about 15 minutes until the fat is rendered and the skin is golden brown.
Turn the duck over and cook for six to seven minutes. This should yield a medium-well breast. Remove the duck and rest on a cutting board, tip out any excess fat and add the leeks. Turn the heat up to high and then stir-fry with a pinch of salt for another few minutes until browned, then remove from the heat.
Heat the dashi, soy sauce and mirin to a simmer in a saucepan, then taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt as needed. Tip the fried leeks into the broth and leave to simmer as you cook the noodles. Fill another large saucepan with water and bring to the boil.
Cook the soba according to the package instructions. While the noodles are cooking, slice the duck.
When the soba is al dente, drain it well, rinse it under warm tap water to remove excess starch, then divide it into noodle bowls. Pour over the broth along with the leeks, garnish with the sliced duck, parsley, citrus zest and shichimi or wasabi, if using, and serve while hot.
This lasts for about three days in the refrigerator if you keep the cooked noodles, broth and toppings all in separate containers.
I learned of an alternative method for cooking the duck from videos I’ve watched of two of the oldest Nanban soba specialists in Japan: Soba Dokoro Okina in Aomori and Kamo Nanban Honke in Kanagawa. Instead of frying a whole duck breast and then slicing it, instead these shops slice the duck first, very thinly, and fry it like bacon before poaching it in the dashi along with the onions. If I’m honest, I do not think the results of this method are as good as panroasting, but it is much quicker, and lends a nice duckiness to the broth.
JapanEasy Bowls & Bento by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, £25), Photography © Laura Edwards