Sesame Soba Noodle Salad
A satisfying buckwheat soba noodle dish loaded with fresh vegetables and tossed in a savory sesame ginger sauce. Can be served warm or cold. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
I have a confession to make. I can't, no matter what, live without noodles. My close friends might go so far as to call it a problem - name it what you wish - there are few things that make me happier than a heaping pile of noodles. And I'm not alone: I'm pretty sure the Asian side of my family considers noodles their own food group. There's so much variety (ramen, vermicelli, udon, and don't even get me started on pasta...), and best of all, every noodle tastes fabulous!! Starchy, chewy, and completely satisfying. Cue cravings.
We've been so lucky to have been blessed with gorgeous summer weather. The sun has been shining since what feels like March / April, and the rain is practically non-existent (a rarity for Vancouver)! And as much as this magical weather has been doing for my tan...the heat has been making it difficult to get in my regular dose of noodles. Full disclaimer: I said difficult, not impossible. A couple weeks ago, I caved and sweated my way through a steaming bowl of Pho in 30 degree weather...it was very yummy, but I knew there was a better way and I needed to find it. Stat.
Well, this week was it. I was on a mission to find the perfect summer noodle fix. I was prepared to spend a week perfecting the recipe. At least, that was the ambitious plan at the beginning of the weekend. Before we spent most of the weekend lounging in the sun. And, definitely before we hosted a backyard barbecue for 20+ family members. It was an absolute blast, but safe to say, by the time Monday rolled around, I was a lot less enthusiastic about a full week of kitchen adventures over a hot stove.
But the show must go on. And, I must eat some noodles - or some form of dinner at the very least. And, thank goodness the stars aligned because this dish was pretty darn close to perfect on the first try! This soba noodle salad is just what you're looking for in a summer dish: easy to prepare, limited "cook time" required, and jammed packed with tons of fresh colorful vegetables. Plus, noodles - and healthy ones at that!
Buckwheat noodles (soba) form the base of this dish. They're very popular in Japan, and can be served either hot or cold. The ingredients list is short: usually just buckwheat flour and water. In some cases, the buckwheat is mixed with yam flour or other ingredients, like wheat flour. Try to buy noodles that are 100% buckwheat, if possible. Of the brands sold in North America, many are cut with a high amount of wheat flour. If you're looking for a gluten-free option, you'll need to watch out for those, so read the labels! These noodles can often be found in the Asian or Health Foods aisle of the grocery store.
In case you didn't know, buckwheat deceivingly isn't wheat at all. It's actually a fruit seed, and related to sorrel and rhubarb. Rhubarb! Mind blown, right? Buckwheat is great because it's naturally gluten-free. And, since it's full of fiber, it helps make you feel full and satisfied. One serving can provide ~20-25% of your daily fiber requirement. Today I had my favorite green smoothie for breakfast and polished off some leftover noodles for lunch - so cheers to killing it in the fiber department!
Since this dish is best served at room temperature (or cold), it means minimal time management skills on your end. Yes, a noodle dish without the final pressures of combining all the ingredients at the right moment for fear that you'll overcook something (or everything)!
The first step for this dish is to make the marinade for the tofu. While you prep your other ingredients, the tofu will bask in a well-balanced sauce made of sesame oil, soy, sweetener, ginger, and a hint of heat and garlic - and then emerge as a perfectly flavored protein source to your meal. If tofu isn't your thing, feel free to substitute for another protein, or leave off completely. Be sure to hang onto that marinade because it also doubles as the sauce for the cooked noodles. I'm warning you though: this marinade is powerful stuff. You will not (I repeat, will not) need to use all the marinade! As a starting point, I suggest using 1/4 cup of the marinade (or about 1/3 of what you made) for dressing the cooked noodles. If you need more, add 1 tablespoon at a time, testing as you go.
This dish stores well in the fridge - which means stellar lunch / dinner leftovers (no reheating required)! And, if you chose to keep the extra marinade, there are plenty of opportunities to put it to good use. You could try using it to lightly dress a simple Asian-inspired salad, adding it to a stir-fry, or spooning it over top of warm rice and sauteed broccoli. A little goes a long way!
SESAME SOBA NOODLE SALAD
SERVES 4 (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
- 1 cup extra-firm tofu (6 oz / 175 g)
- 9 oz / 250 g buckwheat soba noodles
- 3 carrots
- 4 celery stalks
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 3 green onions, diced
- Red chili flakes, to taste
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, coconut)
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha
- 3 tablespoons liquid aminos (or tamari, soy sauce)*
- 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid sweetener (e.g. honey, maple syrup)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- Juice from 1 lime
- First, make the marinade for the tofu. In a deep dish, combine rice wine vinegar, neutral oil, sesame oil, chili sauce, soy sauce, honey, garlic powder, finely diced ginger and lime juice. Whisk together until well combined.
- Pat the tofu dry using a clean dishtowel. Slice tofu into thin strips, about 1 1/2" long, 1/2" wide, 1/4" thick (or 4 cm long, 1 cm wide, 0.5 cm thick ). Place tofu into the prepared marinade, ensuring all tofu pieces are fully submerged. Set dish aside.
- Prepare vegetables. Julienne the carrots into very thin matchstick size pieces ~1 1/2" long). Cut each celery stalk in half (lengthwise), and then proceed to slice on an angle. Slice red pepper into thin strips (1 1/2 " long). Combine chopped carrots, celery and red pepper into a large bowl.
- Boil water and prepare buckwheat noodles according to the manufacturer's directions. Once cooked, quickly strain the noodles and rinse thoroughly with cold water to stop the cooking process. Ensure all excess water is strained from the noodles. Add the cooked noodles to the large bowl of chopped vegetables.
- Using a slotted spoon or fork, remove tofu pieces from the marinade and add them to the bowl of noodles. Transfer the remaining marinade to a large measuring cup. Pour 1/4 cup of marinade over the noodles. Stir gently to combine. Taste the noodles – if you prefer more dressing, slowly add more marinade. Add an additional 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go. Depending on preferences, you might use between 1/4 - 1/2 cup of marinade. You'll have extra marinade left over. Feel free to refrigerate for another use.
- Top the noodles with the diced green onion, sesame seeds, and chili flakes (to taste). Toss noodles to combine before serving. Garnish with extra diced onion if desired.
-*Liquid aminos has a great umami flavor, which makes it great for vegetarian / vegan cooking. Brands such as Bragg can often be found in the natural foods aisle of your local grocer.
-The extra marinade can be used for stir fries or adding a flavor boost to steamed or sautéed vegetables.