Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ingredient of the Day: Japanese Soba Noodles, and a Recipe!

It's important to watch what you eat. Otherwise, how are you going to get it into your mouth? – Matt Diamond

Soba noodle bundles. Photo: FotoosVanRobin, Flickr ccl
You have probably seen them in the Asian groceries. They’re brownish, greyish looking noodles packaged in little bundles and about 8” long. The colour kind of makes them a little unappetizing if you don’t know how to use them. Once you do, your mind changes completely.

Photo; Wiki cc
I find that is the case with most Asian noodles. There are so many varieties with widely varying taste. Each also has optimal dishes they were created to be used in. Once you discover how to use them, they can easily become a staple in your cupboard.

That was the case with me and Soba noodles. I had never even considered buying them, until they were called for in a recipe I wanted to make.

Soba are Japanese noodles made of buckwheat flour (soba-ko) and wheat flour (komugi-ko). Soba noodles contain all eight essential amino acids, including lysine, which is not present in wheat. They also contain antioxidants and essential nutrients including choline, thiamine and riboflavin.

I have read they became popular in Tokyo where, in times past, a diet high in white rice made people susceptible to Beriberi, a disease of the nervous system caused by low thiamine. The knowledge of the health benefits spread and soba stands are common now throughout the city.

Soba noodles are served hot or cold, depending on the time of year and have very varied accompaniments. They are used in dishes such as cold salad, stir fry and noodle soup (either Asian or North American). 

One of my favourite uses is in a dish perfect for a potluck, barbecue or picnic. I honestly can’t remember where this recipe came from. It’s in my cache of older recipes, hand written on a piece of paper with some “kitchen stains” around the edges. I’ve been making this dish for at least seven years, maybe more.

Cold Peanut Soba Noodles
Serves 4 as a main; 8 or more as a side dish

 A general note: 
This is a vegetarian side dish, but can easily be made a main dish by incorporating beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu. Just stir fry your choice in some garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce and a little sesame oil before making the rest of the recipe.

Photo: your idea, Flickr ccl
1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Thai red chilli, or 1-2 green chillies

4 bundles of soba noodles
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium carrot, julienned
4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup peanuts
optional: chopped cilantro

If using meat or tofu, cook as directed above and set aside.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large bowl.

Cook the soba noodles for the minimum time indicated on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.

Add the noodles, green pepper, carrot, green onions and peanuts to the sauce. Add meat or tofu if using. Toss well and serve, or refrigerate until ready to use.


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