Jan 24, 2009

Soba Noodle Salad

Monday, Jan. 26th, is Chinese or Lunar New Year. There are many foods you can eat for a feast on Lunar New Year that are supposed to bring good luck. My next post will tell you about several of them. But I wanted to share this noodle dish first.

For luck, serve noodles uncut, as long as possible, to represent long life.

This is definitely our favorite noodle dish. I learned this recipe in a cooking class with Lake Austin Spa's chef, Terry Conlan. The class focused on Asian grilling. He served this soba noodle salad alongside grilled lamb with a hoisin barbecue sauce. It's fabulous that way. But we have adapted it to make a main dish salad out of it. It's fresh and full of healthy veggies and bright flavors. It's light, but addictive and full of flavor.

The ingredient list for the dressing may seem a bit daunting if you don't have a lot of Asian staples in your pantry. But know that once you try these noodles, you'll want to try more of these kinds of flavors. It's worth the investment. And if you get most of these bottles at the Asian market, it's much cheaper.

I also added fried tofu from the Asian market to this recipe for protein. I'm not usually a big fried food eater, but this gives the tofu a firmer texture and a nice crust. You can find the cubes already freshly prepared in Asian markets. We get them in Austin at the Hong Kong Market. They have regular, lemongrass and chile, and mushroom flavors. These cubes are great in curries or sliced into strips for these noodles.

I always buy organic veggies when they're available, but I've had trouble finding organic boy choy, except when we grow it in our own garden. Most Asian markets don't carry organics, but I've noticed that the baby boy choy at Hong Kong Market is not only a great deal -- you can get a package of a dozen baby bok choy for $1.09, it's also usually pristine. In most other markets, the bok choy is usually pretty beat up. So if you're stopping in for the tofu and dressing ingredients anyway, be sure to get your bok choy too.

Another tip: I also used a julienning peeler to make fast work of the carrots. It's like a normal peeler, but cuts the carrots into fine strips like confetti.

Whether you eat them for luck or nutrition, these noodles will help you achieve long life.

Soba Noodle Salad

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons soy sauce (we like Yamasa low-sodium)
4 tablespoons honey or agave
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons mirin
4 teaspoons peeled and grated ginger
2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
1/2 - 2/3 cup canola oil

9 ounce package soba noodles
12 ounces fried tofu cubes, cut into strips
2 bell peppers: orange, red and/or yellow, cut into bite-sized chunks
3-4 heads of baby boy choy, rinsed well and cut into slivers
2 large carrots, peeled and then julienned
one bunch cilantro, chopped
one bunch mint leaves
one bunch basil leaves, chopped
one small bunch chives, chopped

Put on a medium-sized pot of water to boil the soba noodles.

While the water is heating up, make the dressing: Combine ingredients in a bowl and whisk together to combine. Set aside.

Boil soba noodles for 2-3 minutes until tender and drain. Place immediately in a large bowl and pour half the dressing over the noodles. Toss them with tongs to distribute the dressing over all the noodles.

Add salad ingredients to noodles: tofu strips, bell peppers, bok choy, carrots and herbs. Toss together again with tongs to combine. Pour over the rest of the dressing and toss again.

Can be prepared and refrigerated until ready to serve, no longer than 2 hours.

Serves 6-8.

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