There are certain ingredients that will make you love a dish, almost no matter what. Depending on your palette, it might be bacon, truffles, butter, caramelized onions, mangoes, brown gravy, or any number of things. With my husband, it's soba noodles. Every dish I've made with these Japanese buckwheat noodles has been a major home run. I always keep ingredients for zaru soba on hand, as everything except for the scallions is non-perishable so in a pinch, I can always whip them up for lunch, dinner, or a snack. I've made them with sesame paste, in broth with tofu and mushrooms, in place of rice noodles in Vietnamese bun, with vegetables and Korean hot sauce, with tuna ceviche or tuna sashimi, with ground pork, Sichuan peppercorns, and Tianjin preserved vegetable...well, you get the idea. Suffice it to say that I am *always* on the lookout for new soba noodle recipes.
Almost a year ago, I stumbled upon a recipe in Cooking Light for a cool soba noodle salad with veggies and tofu. I bookmarked the recipe and forgot about it for a while, until this week when I came across it while looking for entrees involving tofu on my del.icio.us page. A cold noodle salad with raw veggies and a zesty dressing seemed like just the thing for a hot summer night. It looked simple enough to make, but hardly earth-shattering.
I was NOT expecting this dish to be as scrumptuous as it was. This is some Seriously Good Stuff. The dressing was marvelous, and it certainly doesn't hurt that it only contains two teaspoons of oil. It's soy sauce based with chili-garlic paste, fresh ginger, orange juice, brown sugar (I subbed agave nectar), rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. It is definitely super-versatile; it would be great on a tossed salad, mixed with a bag of broccoli slaw, over massaged kale, or as an interesting dip for crudite. I loved the fact that I didn't have to cook anything, the tofu in particular because it always sticks to the pan unless I use tons of oil. I was fortunate enough to score some handmade tofu from my beloved Asian market. I substituted 1/2 cup daikon for 1/2 cup of the carrots, and I would not do that again because it looked unattractive after absorbing the dressing. I'd also add some julienned cucumber next time. But I'm happy to have yet another soba dish in my repertoire. This would be right at home at a potluck, on a picnic, or as Obligatory Vegetarian Dish at a barbecue whereas I wouldn't bring, say, zaru soba or my soba dan dan mian. Even tofu haters will love this one because of all the yummy dressing it soaks up.
Thanks, Ruth, for giving me the inspiration to dig through my old bookmarks!