That is a direct quote from my husband, Paul. Our introduction to soba noodles came while we lived in Los Angeles and frequented an area around Sawtelle & Olympic Boulevards that has many Japanese shops and restaurants. We discovered what was soon to become our favorite restaurant, a “noodle bar” named Mishima. Their brown and mild tasting soba noodles, whether served cold with a dipping sauce or in a hot broth with Japanese vegetables and tempura, soon became our favorites.
Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat. And soba noodles are thin Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour and usually with wheat flour as well. The amount of buckwheat flour can vary. Pure buckwheat noodles are gluten-free, richer tasting, more expensive and take greater care to keep them from clumping during cooking. The addition of wheat makes for a lighter noodle behaving more like Italian pasta. Nutritionally rich buckwheat has a significantly higher protein content than wheat, containing all eight of the essential amino acids making it a complete protein.
An Abundance of Mint and Scallions
With freezing temperatures in the forecast we harvested the few remaining items in our garden: scallions, chard, mint, parsley and thyme. What a wonderful problem I then had: what to do with such an abundance of mint and scallions?
I remembered and then adapted a recipe from Epicurious to create a cold soba salad with lots of veggies cut into long and thin, Asian-style “threads.” And this is the salad I share with you today as “everything is great with soba noodles.”
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 cucumber, peeled, julienne cut
¼ cup lite seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2/3 cup mint chiffonade, or finely chopped
1 cup scallions, julienne cut
2 ½ cups coarsely grated carrot
2 cups fresh, thin green beans cut on the sharp diagonal into about 3-inch lengths
1 8-ounce package soba noodles, broken in half
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Julienne the cucumber and place it in a large bowl along with the vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Let the cucumber marinate while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Add about ½ teaspoon salt to the boiling water then stir in the soba noodles. Set a timer for five minutes. Continue stirring the sobas until the water comes back to the boil. Lower the heat so the water is at a medium boil. After one minute, add the green beans. When the timer goes off, test a noodle to be sure it is cooked. Pour the sobas and beans into a colander and rinse with a little cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the noodles and beans very well as water will dilute the dressing and the flavor of your salad. (Note: check the suggested cooking time on your package of soba noodles. If it is more than 5 minutes, then adjust the recipe by adding the green beans when there are 4 minutes to go.)
Stir the well-drained noodles and beans into the bowl with the cucumbers. When coated with dressing, stir in the mint, scallions and carrots. Serve sprinkled with the toasted sesame seeds.