Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Noodle Incident (Spicy Sesame Soba)

I have absolutely no pedigree when it comes to the cuisine of any culture. In true American fashion, my creations are bastardized, adapted, and sometimes probably miss the point completely. That said, I love the food of many cultures, especially that of Japan. Since I feel the local is establishment is a tad on the greasy side, though, I'm often left to my own devices in this arena. So much the better.

An attempt at authenticity
I have an excellent cookbook for creating "true" Japanese food: Washoku, yet I find it somewhat intimidating. I have successfully prepared a washoku meal once and otherwise keep it on hand as something like a hope chest, waiting in reserve for my glowing culinary future. One of the primary tenets of washoku cooking is achieving a balance of food: colors, textures, preparations, and ingredients are carefully blended like a symphony. The results can be breathtaking.

Yin and Yang
Instead, today I provide one of my slip-shod, was-once-an-experiment recipes, but I couldn't be happier. You should be happy, too: if you can boil water, you can do this. Soba are traditional Japanese noodles, served as comfort food and fast food. You can buy them from carts in Tokyo train stations and probably should, but you can also make it at home on the cheap. Somewhat like ramen, it can be a college student's best friend.

Down to Earth
I love this recipe because, in addition to being super easy, it's also remarkably healthy. Soba noodles are made from whole-grain buckwheat (hooray!) and pair beautifully with fresh vegetables and a simple, tangy sauce: bright with fresh-squeezed lime juice, rich with aged tamari and the warm, golden fullness of sesame oil. The heat of chile flakes rounds things out and brings it all together.

In perfect harmony
Spicy sesame soba

I prepared it sans protein, here, but you can easily punch this up with some edamame, tempeh, or tofu (or your meat of choice, for the carnivorously inclined). This is a cold noodle dish, making it ideal for summer, but it's still tasty year-round. Also, I totally forgot this time, but I like to add about a tablespoon of black sesame seeds, too, both to allude to the flavors within and add a little crunch and contrast.

9.5 oz dried soba noodles (spaghetti will work, in a pinch)
1/2 English cucumber
8 oz baby carrots
4 scallions
1 tbs tamari (or regular soy sauce)
1 tbs fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp red chile flakes

Fill a large pot with freshly drawn water and cook the soba noodles according to package directions. This generally involves boiling them for a few minutes.

For demonstrative purposes
As the noodles boil, slice your vegetables. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice thinly into half-moons. Sliver the carrots. Slice the scallions (white and tender green parts only) thinly, too.

Cool as
Once the noodles are done, drain them in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water to chill. Shake out as much of the water as possible.

Chill out
Whisk the tamari, lime juice, sesame oil, and chile flakes together in a small bowl, then toss with the noodles and vegetables. Top with additional scallions.

Douzo meshiagare!


beti said...

I am always creating new dished with strange flavors but I have to admit that I do love to experiment with oriental food, since I love all the spicy flavors, your noodles look pretty good

Michaela K said...

I think I may have to try this recipe! I love your pictures too!

Unknown said...

The sauce sounds yummy--I think I would like it better than a peanut sauce.

J said...

Thanks, Beti! I do love a good experiment. If we call it "fusion," any break from tradition is excusable, right?

Thank you, too, Michaela. This really is a good one to try: so, so easy, even for one of my "lazy" recipes. I'm glad you like the photos. So many people have stepped in to help me in that department, but I still have a lot to learn. Picnik is my secret weapon. ;)

And thanks to you as well, Unknown. The sesame sauce is great because it has such a contrast in the layered favors, but I do love me some peanut sauce, too!

ben said...

I love eating Japanese noodles and eat them every regularly. I'm definitely going to try your recipe. Thanks.

J said...

Thanks Ben, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!