Until recently, I had never heard of Soba noodles. Not once. When I first heard them mentioned, I ran into the grocery store and emerged with some form of lo mein noodles. The second time, replete with the knowledge that they were closer to whole wheat spaghetti, than chinese noodles, I came back with, well, whole wheat spaghetti, unable to locate the soba noodles.
Finally, I decided to no longer leave it up to chance. I walked into the grocery store – our neighborhood Schnucks no less — and asked whether they carried Soba noodles. Within a few seconds, a store employee had brought me exactly what I wanted – a clear package with Japanese characters adorning the label. This was it. I had found the elusive noodle.
In this case, Schnucks carried these Yamaimo Soba Noodles in their Asian aisle. I had never seen such an interestingly packaged food item. The noodles were bundled in groups of three, with each bundle secured by its own washi tape. The instructions informed you whether you needed one, two, or three of the bundles, as well as the proper timing and technique for cooking the noodles.
In the end, the noodles were a great hit, quick and easy to cook, and absorbed the great flavor from the sauce. I have already made this recipe three or four times: it’s a real hit and not something I would have ordinarily made.
Soba Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Tofu
Recipe adapted from The Best Cookbook Ever
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
WHAT TO GRAB:
3 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1 tablespoon mirin 1 tablespoon Sriracha 1 block of Firm Tofu (you may substitute with two boneless, skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced) 1/2 pound of soba noodles Kosher salt 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed 1 bunch scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons sesame oil 2 radishes, grated
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Dry the tofu. Cut the tofu into a series of 1/2-inch thick rectangles or triangles. Place the tofu between sets of paper towels and allow the towels to soak up the water on each end. Dry for about 10 minutes.
2. Dry-fry the tofu. Heat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Do NOT add any oil to the pan. Cook the tofu, frequently pressing each piece with a spatula, to help drain any excess water. Once one side has browned, flip the pieces and repeat until the other side has fully browned. About 10 minutes a side.
3. Marinate the tofu. In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, Sriracha, and 3 tablespoons water. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tofu pieces. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
4. Cook the noodles. While the tofu is marinating, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the soba noodles and a pinch of salt, and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Immediately drain the noodles in a colander set in the sink, rinse under cold running water, and let drain again thoroughly.
5. Cook the mushrooms. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about two or three minutes.
6. Bring the meal together. In a large bowl, toss the soba noodles with the warm tofu and sauce, warm mushrooms, and half of the chopped green onions. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the remaining green onions, sesame oil, and radish. Serve right away!