Soba noodle salad was our obsession this summer, soba salad and soda water, obsessed. And I know it’s the first month of Autumn, but there are warm days left for us (the last couple of days in Melbourne have been tropical), and the salad doesn’t have to be served ice cold (how I like to serve it on a 38C day), it can be a little bit warm.
Soba noodles endear me because they only take 4 minutes to cook, they have that wonderful nutty flavour, and the perfect bite to them. I love how the pot froths and nearly boils over when they’re ready and that all they need is a rinse under cold water.
In Japan when you order cold soba noodles (which I have written about here before) they simply come served cold on a little bamboo mat with dipping sauce and pickles and whatever other little morsel they want to give you – with some yaki nori (fried seaweed) on top. The soba noodle salad is a bit of a western bastardisation, so please forgive us.
We normally make it with whatever we have that’s fresh and in-season, but we always throw herbs through the noodles, and we always have a hunk of avocado sprinkled with furikake. I brought a stash of furikake back with me from Japan – but you can make your own, there are some good recipes here. (Just Bento or Just Hungry are great resources in English for Japanese cooking.) Or you could simply toast some sesame seeds and toss with some finely chopped yaki nori and a little salt. The furikake should be salty and it’s normally a little fishy (with bonito or little dried prawns).
The dressing I use is a little sesame oil, a little ponzu sauce (which is citrus flavoured sauce derived from the yuzu, a nobbly Japanese citrus). I buy mine from the Asian grocer but you could make your own, or just fake it with a bit of light soy sauce and some lemon juice. Then I add a little soba dipping sauce, again there is a recipe here if you want to make your own – I just buy mine. When I was in Japan my friend Meigumi showed me how to make a dashi stock (the base to most sauces and stocks) by simmering kombu and adding dried flakes of bonito – but she mostly uses store bought sauces as well. And the thing about the salad is it’s supposed to be so easy – so no point in boiling kombu away on the stove-top unless you’re a committed cook.
I have a great deal to learn about Japanese cooking but it is one of my very favourite ways to eat. There is such a commitment to seasonal cooking and reverence for the ingredients.
Soba Noodle Salad
250g soba noodles (I like the 100% buckwheat ones best, but I eat them all.)
for the dressing:
1tsp sesame oil
1tbsp ponzu sauce
2tbsp soba dipping sauce
for the salad:
a handful of fresh herbs
spring onions, finely chopped
tomatoes, chopped into edges
avocado, chopped into hunks and topped with furikake or yaki nori
Cook noodles as per packet instructions, when ready rinse very well under cold water and set aside. I stir through the sesame oil now. Prepare your salad ingredients and stir through the noodles with the rest of the dressing. Top with avocado and tomato and add whatever else salad-y you think is delicious.