Soba noodles are a traditional food throughout Japan. When it’s cold out, they are usually served as part of a hot soup; when the weather warms, they are generally chilled and paired with a dipping sauce.
Soba noodles are generally made from a combination of wheat and buckwheat flour, and the buckwheat gives them a distinct dark gray hue. They have a rather chewy texture and a taste that many describe as “earthy”. Nutritionally speaking, soba are far superior to regular noodles: they’re quite high in vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Though they do usually contain some wheat, it is possible to find soba noodles that are made from 100% buckwheat. Eden is one brand that makes all buckwheat soba noodles and these are available at many natural foods stores and perhaps in the Asian section of large supermarkets. Buckwheat contains no gluten, so make sure your soba noodles are 100% buckwheat if you eat gluten-free. If you can’t find a brand of all-buckwheat soba noodles and you don’t need to eat gluten-free for health reasons, you can go ahead and use a brand that contains some wheat.
Though this recipe is not terribly traditional in the Japanese sense, I think soba noodles are a natural with vegetables and a dressing that highlights another one of my favorite Japanese ingredients: miso.
If you are unfamiliar with miso, it’s a creamy paste made from fermented soybeans. It is the main ingredient in miso soup, of course, but it has many other uses in the kitchen. White (“mellow”) miso is the variety with the mildest flavor, but it is still quite salty, so don’t add the full amount if you are sensitive to salt. Miso is high in iron and zinc, and well as naturally occuring probiotics which are excellent for the immune system and for the digestion.
I had leftover roast chicken so I threw some in for protein, but you could substitute just about any type of leftover cooked meat or fish. You can also leave out the animal products for a vegan salad. Feel free to play with the vegetables: carrots sliced into matchsticks would be nice, as would colorful sliced peppers and/or some bean sprouts. If you don’t have tahini, you could try using some all-natural peanut butter in it’s place.
Recipe for Soba Salad with Miso Tahini Dressing
*use organic ingredients whenever possible
Ingredients for the salad:
*one 8 oz. package of buckwheat soba noodles, preferably made with 100% buckwheat flour
*1 cup frozen shelled edamame
*1 cup chopped broccoli
*1 cup matchstick-sliced cucumbers
*1 cup cooked shredded organic, free-range chicken- optional; you could also use another type of cooked leftover meat or fish, or add cooked tofu or tempeh
*1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
*2 tablespoons all-natural pickled ginger (I like The Ginger People brand) or 1 Tb. peeled and minced fresh ginger
*1/2 cup sliced green onion tops
Ingredients for the dressing:
*2 tablespoons tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
*2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
*2 tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice wine)- optional
*2 tablespoons white miso (“shiro” miso)
*2 tablespoons sesame tahini
*1-2 pinches crushed red pepper
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat a small pot of water (you’ll need enough water to submerge the edamame and the broccoli).
When the water is boiling, add the frozen edamame and the broccoli. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until both are bright green and tender.
Drain the edamame and the broccoli and allow to cool, and then mix with the sliced cucumbers and optional chicken. Mix well. Add the cilantro, ginger, and green onion and mix again. set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together. Add a little water if the mixture is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking, if necessary.
Pour the dressing over the noodles and vegetables and mix well to combine. Garnish with additional minced cilantro, if you like.
This post is linked to the March 4th edition of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday!