Although I've been cooking various iterations of Japanese soba noodles for years, the recent scorching heat waves here in Reno, Nevada reminded me just how incredible cold soba noodles are! With several packages of dried Soba in the pantry at all times, I can have an incredible cold noodle salad in just minutes!
Soba noodles are a summertime standard in Japan, where it's served as either a refreshing snack or light meal on hot, humid days. They're delicious in a broth - including a chilled broth (think juicy chopped and squeezed farmers' market tomatoes with a bit of low sodium vegetable broth, Mirin and Shoyu?), with a dipping sauce, or as part of a BIG SALAD.
That's the way I like 'em! Piled HIGH with whatever is in the bin: celery, greens ( collards, Swiss Chard, spinach, dandelion, kale) , snap peas, chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet peppers, radicchio, summer squash sliced thinly into ribbons or coarsely grated, chopped cucumber, ribbons of heirloom carrots. The list goes on and on.
You can plow through a big bowl of this chilled goodness, feel utterly satisfied and refreshed rather than ready to slip into an afternoon food coma. Oh, BTW: Chilled soba noodles travel very nicely to the picnic or workplace in your lunch/Bento box. Just keep the chilled noodles separate from your 'wet' ingredients and toppings until ready to eat.
Need a list of goodies that you can pile on your soba? I've got you covered :
Mini marinated peppers
Celery sliced thinly on the diagonal
Asian canned marinated 'straw' mushrooms
Green onions sliced thinly on the diagonal
Fermented soy beans (Natto)
Canned Japanese Preserved (Marinated) Mixed Vegetables (Fukujinzuke)
Spinach, or other thinly sliced greens
Furikake - those flavored nori 'sprinkles' for rice
Carrots sliced in ribbons
Pickled red onions
Zoodles of summer squash (yellow straightneck, zucchini, gray)
Snap pea pods sliced on the diagonal
Asparagus sliced very thinly on the diagonal
Just Egg omelet, folded and sliced in strips
Sweet bell or mini peppers, seeded and sliced really thin
Sautéed plant-based chicken
Hydrated, thinly sliced Shiitake mushrooms (hydrate in flavored broth)
Thinly sliced radish
Thinly sliced or 'zoodled' baby turnips
Soba noodles come in different variations - some are wheat, some are 100% buckwheat (shown middle) Ju-wari Soba (十割そば), and others can be a mix of the two (shown bottom), such as Hachi-wari Soba (八割そば). For the chilled soba, I love the delicate flavor and color of the Green Tea Soba (shown top) noodles. Cha Soba, 茶そば, are a blend of buckwheat and wheat flour, infused with green tea. What's not to love?
I buy my soba at a local Asian market here in Reno. It's cheaper there, and they have a better selection. You can also find it in better markets like Whole Foods, of course. They're also available online - through Amazon and similar.
To cook soba:
Boil a lot of water in a large pot as you would pasta. Add dried soba noodles in the boiling water, separating the noodles from each other. Cook soba noodles according to package instructions (each brand is slightly different). Four to six minutes is common. Stir the noodles once in a while so they don’t stick to each other. Check the tenderness and do not overcook. Drain in a colander and rinse with really cold water. It's important to rinse the starch from the cooked noodles.
You can also immerse the drained soba into ice water to cool them, and then drain again. Now, you can either use the noodles now, or put them into a container for later. I'll often cook an entire package of the noodles and just use what I need for a meal. Cooked noodles will stick to each other and require a little 'loosening' up with either cold water, broth or the flavored liquid that you dress the salad in.
My soba 'dressing' is super fast and easy!
Liquid Shio Koji combined with an equal (more or less) part of Mirin Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning, and a splash of Yuzu or either fresh lemon or lime juice. It's just that simple. Adjust the ratios to suit your palate. You can add just a hint of Shoyu, if you wish.
I pour the dressing over the cold noodles, and using my hands, gently loosen up the noodles. A few tosses and they're ready to receive whatever toppings you have ready.
Now, go forth and Soba!
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