Monday, April 8, 2013

Chilled soba noodles with orange sauce and tofu

It's getting warmer in Chicago... kinda... finally. How to celebrate the warmer weather? With lighter, cooler fare on the kitchen table! Like these citrus-dressed soba noodles.

I love me some soba noodles. The buckwheat flour results in a slightly nutty, chewy, and flavorful noodle that goes great in soups or on its own. During the winter I think a soup would be the way to go, but this noodle salad is great for those days when you want a crisp and light meal, with bright and sweet flavors.

Chilled Soba Noodles with Spicy Orange Sesame and Tofu, adapted from Food Gal (taken from the cookbook Street Food)

I felt the dish tasted a lot better the next day when the noodles had a chance to absorb some of the orange juice. So I'd suggest making it a day in advance and serving it the next day, straight from the fridge. Serves 4.

4 cups fresh orange juice
1 (12.7-ounce) package of soba noodles
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup spicy sesame oil (I don't like sesame so I didn't use it; feel free to use another oil and add some heat in the form of sriracha or chilies)
1/3 cup sugar, optional (I think the orange juice makes it sweet enough so no need for extra sugar)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds, toasted
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 (10-ounce) package firm tofu, patted with paper towels to soak up any extra water, then cut into small cubes and salted to taste
cilantro, optional
lime wedges, optional
Shiso leaves, left whole for garnish, or sliced into ribbons to top the noodles (optional)

  1. Pour orange juice into a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the orange juice is thick and syrupy and has reduced to about 1 cup.
  2. While the orange juice is simmering, cook your noodles: Bring a large of water to a boil. (The general ratio for cooking noodles is 4 quarts of water per pound of noodles.) Add noodles to the boiling water and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain noodles and rinse them twice with cold water. Drain well, and transfer them to a bowl.
  3. When your orange juice is ready, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the syrupy juice into a blender, and add soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Puree until smooth and emulsified, about 2 minutes. Pour half of the dressing over the noodles and toss well to combine. Put the noodles in the refrigerator to cool, 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Toss the cooled noodles with toasted black sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Top with tofu, and shiso (if using), and serve with remaining dressing on the side. I liked serving the salad with a heaping of cilantro and lime wedges, for a bit of a Thai twist. I felt the two flavors contrasted nicely with the sweet orange.
Hot tip: If you have any leftover dressing, use it to perk up salad greens the next day.


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