Soba noodles are a new addition to my kitchen and I’m obsessed. I have to restrain myself from making a version of this recipe for otsu, soba noodle salad, every night.
In Japanese, otsu means “something strange; quaint; stylish; chic; spicy; witty; tasty; romantic,” wrote blogger Heidi Swanson in her post about this recipe. “Right in line with its namesake, this buckwheat noodle salad has a few distinctive sides to it. It is amazingly flavorful. It is substantial. And it has some kick to it while being cool and refreshing at the same time.”
Swanson got the recipe from a publication called Culture & Cuisine, and it comes from Pomelo restaurant in San Francisco. She also published the recipe in her book Simply Natural Cooking.
I loved the combination of noodles and uncooked veggies, and the sesame-ginger dressing adds a great kick of spice and flavor. If you don’t like tofu, try substituting pieces of grilled chicken, shrimp or scallops. You can also control the spice level by adjusting the amount of cayenne.
I made my otsu just as Swanson said, except I used the regular soy sauce I had in my cupboard instead of wheat-free soy sauce. I added shredded carrots and used a whole cucumber — for me, the more veggies the better. We ate our first helping of the noodle salad warm (we were hungry) and then had it cold the next day for lunch. It’s delicious either way.
Source: Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks
OTSU (soba noodle salad)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 cup shoyu sauce (wheat-free soy sauce)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
* Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.
* Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.
* While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (1/2-inch thick and 1-inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden and bouncy.
* In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the 1/4 cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber and about 2/3 cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds. Serves 4-6