Charcoal Cooked Crabs, Cold Soba, and assorted Tempura


Let’s see if the reviews are in. Oh good a generous one, but then again, I do know where she lives.

As slow and easy a Japanesey dinner party as there could be. The starting snack was edamame, boiled and salted soy bean bean pods, which were bought ready to defrost and go. An excellent summer snack if you remember not to eat the pod.


Next was a few blue manna/ blue swimmer crabs detopped, delimbed and cut in half and then cooked at the table over a charcoal burner. Cooking this way with the shell makes for sweeter taste and the the flesh is cooked in its own abundant juices.

Finally a classic summer matching of tempura and zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles). The two use the same dipping sauce so this saves time.

1 cup of dashi*, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of mirin, and 2 tablespoons of sake. Brought to the boil and allowed to chill. I use instant dashi as it’s very much in the background but do add to the quality by placing a piece of konbu in the water. You place a mobile phone sized piece in the water, bring it to a near boil, and remove and discard the konbu. Konbu imparts the enigmatic 6th metaflavour umami, artificially associated with MSG powder.

The zaru soba was cooked, ran under cold water and then placed in a bowl with ice. Some of the aforementioned dipping sauce is placed in a bowl, with crushed nori, wasabi, and chopped spring onions. The noodles are dipped in and eaten – it’s not a soup.If the sound of cold noodles doesn’t do it for you, this may change your mind.

Also dipped in the sauce was the tempura. I used a Japanese premix tempura batter for the combination of wheat and rice flour and used very cold soda water instead of water and added a couple of drops of tabasco. The key to making tempura instead of fritters is to ensure that the mix is very cold, I add some ice. And keep the mixture lumpy. These make for an impact with the hot oil and a much more textured and lighter batter. It’s also good to make small batches so every piece is eaten hot. Getting the oil temperature right is difficult but I find it easiest just to do a test piece, too hot and it will burn quickly, too cold and it absorbs too much oil. Under a minute seems about right.

The tempura ingredients were thinly sliced sweet potato, sliced baby eggplant, swiss brown mushrooms, scored baby squid hoods, and spring onions with scallops. The last were my favourite and you can by putting some chopped spring onions and scallop meat in a chinese soup spoon, covering it with batter, and then easing the mix into the oil. It’s a perfect amount of time to cook scallops.

Thanks to Natalie for coming over, being an anvil for my culinary hammer, keeping a cracking conversational pace, and making all the right compliments. I look forward to cashing in my Melbourne dinner credit.




  1. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    The meals sounds fantastic. I really like zaru soba, and the idea of table top grilling really appeals to me…not to mentioned grilling crab! Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to deal with all that smoke in my small apartment.

    Tempura, like some other Japanese fried food, takes a bit of skill to prepare. If/when I make tempura at home, I feel like I’m taking a huge chance that it won’t turn out right…and about 60% of the time, it’s a total failure. I give you tons of credit.

  2. pixelkitty’s avatar

    A menu worthy of the best Japanese restaurants I have been to.

    Thanks so much for inviting me, and putting up with my chatterbox all over the place conversation :) Toni and yourself are the most excellent of hosts!

  3. Anthony’s avatar

    Ganbatte mate, 40% is well above a random occurrence.

    Aw shucks. The guest is god.

  4. Santos’s avatar

    i think my next cd comp to you will be called: say, you’ve got good plates
    don’t expect it any time soon.

  5. Anthony’s avatar

    Santos Santos Santos the comp was well worth the wait. Most of the plates and bowls are from a shopping area called Kappabashi in Tokyo. Much cheaper than the department stores and filled with good restaurant stuff likes knives and hats. Must stop for any foodie tour of Tokyo.

  6. Santos’s avatar

    i once spent a slow but entertaining afternoon there with some friends who needed to see (and touch) every single cup, saucer, teaspoon and hashioki in every single store possible. not that i can’t be a tableware whore, too, but my bags were already full, and anyway, i do okay at my local everything $1.50 shop (oh, inflation).

  7. Anthony’s avatar

    Hashioki are those little chopstick rests folks and have nothing to do Japanse rasta singalong nights.

    Tableware hoor? Where will the depravity end? Non-stick strumpetry? Hot watercress covered babes?

  8. Anonymous’s avatar

    Hiya.. looks oh so yummy!! was wondering where you get your edamame from?? I have searched everywhere for it unsuccessfully..

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