This herbaceous pasta is a variation on Homemade Cold Citron Noodles and was inspired by the recent availability in the United States of shiso abura, an aromatic spice oil. There’s no simple substitute should this product be unavailable, but fresh mint oil makes an interesting, though differently colored and textured, variation on the theme. Whether made with Japanese spice oil or homemade mint oil, the resulting noodles are delicious alone, or served in combination with the lemony noodles. Chilled noodles such as these, served with dipping sauce, are a popular snack in Japan. They can also become a tantalizing first course to a larger non-Oriental meal.
Mound the flour in a shallow bowl. Make a well in the center of the mound and break the egg into it. Add the herb or mint oil and salt over the egg, and with a fork (or chopsticks) gently scramble the egg. Continue the scrambling motions, incorporating a bit of flour from the sides of the well as you go. Gradually beat in the flour to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board and knead it with the palms of the hands for a few minutes, until smooth and somewhat elastic. The dough should be the consistency the Japanese call mimi tabu or “earlobe.” Gently pinch the dough, then the soft, thick pad of your earlobe; they should feel about the same. Using a manual pasta machine, roll the noodle dough out to a thickness of 1/16 inch. (Begin with the widest setting on your machine and gradually work to the next-to-thinnest setting.) Allow the broad strip of dough to rest for 3 minutes before running it through a narrow spaghetti-cutting attachment. Allow the noodles to air dry on a rack for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours before cooking them.
Bring 3–4 quarts of lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a very large pot. As the noodles cook, the water will foam and you must plan ahead for the necessary headroom. Cook the noodles in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Strain the noodles immediately and shower them with fresh cold water. If you wish to make and cook the noodles in advance, you’ll need to shower them quickly in cold water again just before serving.
The Japanese usually serve these noodles on woven or slatted mats with plates beneath. Chilled dipping sauce is served separately on the side. Each person lifts noodles from the plate or bowl and dips them in the sauce. Slurping them from the dip dish, held directly beneath your chin, is the easiest and most authentic way to eat them. Large glass salad bowls, with the sauce poured on the noodles at the last moment, makes an attractive alternative presentation.
Rinse the mint leaves and pat dry. Place the fresh leaves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse-process until the leaves are uniformly and finely chopped. You may have to stop and scrape down the sides several times to accomplish this.
With the motor going, dribble in 3 tablespoons of the oil. Stop and scrape down the sides as often as necessary to combine the chopped herb and oil well. Add more oil, dribbling it in, if the mixture seems dry.
Store the oil in a covered glass or ceramic container. The mint will settle to the bottom of the container after a few moments. When making the noodles, use the thick sediment from the bottom of your container. When using the oil for salad dressings, stir it up well before measuring.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.