I started eating more buckwheat soba noodles when I returned from Tokyo. Buckwheat noodles are pleasantly chewy, with a nutty, savory quality. They pair well with ginger, scallions, and sesame oil. The following is less of a recipe and more of a sketch of how to leverage these noodles at lunch. I came across some red mustard greens at the grocery store, and thought that their bitterness would pair well with garlic and buckwheat, but other bitter or hearty vegetables, like rapini or chard, would work as well. So use what comes your way.
I’ve made the serving size 2—enough for back-to-back lunches for me—but it could easily be doubled to serve 4. And if you need something heartier or want to go the dinner route, grilled salmon and bok choy would round out the plate.
A few notes before you start: mustard greens, kale, or chard require a little pre-cooking, but raw spinach can be mixed directly into the cooked noodles. You also can use the leaves of bok choy just like spinach, sautéing them without the blanching step. Sambal is a great, easy to find Asian condiment, but sriracha works too. For crunch, I like to finish the dish with toasted sesame seeds. Since sesame seeds can go rancid if stored on the shelf, I store untoasted sesame seeds in the freezer and quickly toast what I need in a dry sauté pan.
Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Greens and Tofu
- 4 cups chopped greens, such as mustard greens, kale, or chard,
- Vegetable oil
- 215 grams / 4 ounces firm tofu, patted dry and cut into domino-size pieces
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced, dark green ends discarded
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 15 grams / 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 5 grams / 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
- 5 grams / 1 teaspoon sesame oil, preferably toasted
- A pinch of sugar (optional)
- 215 grams / 4 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. If using mustard greens, kale, or chard, blanch the greens in the water briefly to soften, then skim them off of the surface, leaving the water boiling for the noodles.
Heat a film of vegetable oil in a sauté pan (nonstick works well here) and lightly brown the tofu on each side. Drain on paper towels. Add more vegetable oil (if needed) and briefly sauté the green onions, ginger, and garlic. Add the greens, give the pan a good stir, and remove from heat.
In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, chile garlic sauce, sesame oil, and sugar.
Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain. Put the noodles back in the pot and add the contents of the sauté pan, the tofu, and the soy sauce mixture. Give the noodles a good toss, and taste, adding more sesame oil if the noodles seem dry or more soy sauce if they need salt.
Pile the noodles in two bowls (or save half for lunch the next day) and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.