Vary the vegetables according to seasonal availability. Fresh peas, sweetcorn, red and green peppers and radishes are all tasty and colourful variations for this dish.
Since most Japanese noodles are made with salt, you don’t need to add salt to the cooking water. You need about 2.5 litres boiling water to every 250 grams of noodles. Add the noodles a few at a time so the water doesn’t stop boiling. Stir gently until the water is boiling rapidly again to prevent the noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If too many noodles are added at once, the water won’t return to the boil quickly enough, and the noodles will overcook on the outside and undercook on the inside. Also, using too little water will result in sticky, unevenly cooked noodles.
Some Japanese cooks boil them as described above, but add a cup of cold water once the water comes to the boil. When the water returns to a boil again, another cup of cold water is added. This is repeated three or four times until the noodles are cooked.
Either way, you need to test the noodles frequently to make sure they don’t overcook. A properly cooked noodle is slightly chewy and the same colour throughout. Once cooked, immediately drain and rinse the noodles in two or three cold-water baths or under cold running water. This stops them cooking and keeps the noodles from sticking together. If necessary, reheat by putting them in a colander and submerging in a pot of boiling water until just heated. Drain well and serve.
John & Jan Belleme are leading autorities on the healing powers of traditional Japanese foods. Before turning his focus to food and health, John was a research biologist for the Veteran's association in Miami, Florida, and he worked in laboratories at the Universities of Miami Medical School and Harvard University Medical School.
For more than twenty-five years John has applied his background in medical research to interpreting the literature on traditional Japanese medicinal foods.
In 1979, after living and studying in Japan for over a year - where the Bellemes learned the craft of miso making firsthand - they co-founded the American Miso Company, one of the world's largest producers of traditional miso.
Since the 1980s the Bellemes have researched and written, and in many cases illustrated, over 130 published articles on the subject of Japanese foods, including four books: Culinary Treasures of Japan; Cooking with Japanese Foods: A Guide to the Traditional Natural Foods of Japan; Clearspring - The Real Taste of Japan and The Miso Book.
John and Jan travel throughout the eastern United States giving lectures about authentic Japanese foods, and every winter, with partner Sandy Pukel, organise a week-long health cruise that features prominent experts in macrobiotic cooking, healthy living, holistic medicine, yoga, meditation, shiatsu, Pilates, and natural beauty aids. They live in Saluda, North Carolina.