In one more week it will be August and we still haven’t had summer here in Manhattan Beach. Today the high was 69 degrees F. I am hopeful that warm weather is right around the corner, so in anticipation, here is a cold Soba Noodle Salad that will be great to enjoy outdoors when the sun is shining and palm trees are waving in the warm ocean breezes. It’s going to happen, right?
I love the peanut butter dressing that goes on this salad. It has every taste sensation possible: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Then there are the soft noodles, and the crunchy cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and peanuts. It has the whole sensory board covered: looks great, smells sensational (especially the sesame oil and ginger), feels soft and crunchy, sounds enticing with the slurping of noodles and crunchy veggies. Come on sun, where are you?
Soba is made with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is a grain-like crop, but is not a cereal or grass, and has no gluten. It’s called a pseudocereal to emphasize it is not related to wheat. Common buckwheat was domesticated and first cultivated in inland southeast Asia around 6000 B.C., and spread to Central Asia and Tibet, then to the Middle East and Europe.
The fruit is an achene, similar to sunflower seeds, with a single seed inside a hard outer shell. The starchy endosperm is white and the seed coat is green or tan, which darkens the buckwheat flour. The hull is dark brown or black and some may be included in the flour as dark specks.
Buckwheat noodles play a major role in the cuisine of Japan (soba), Korea (naengmyeon) and the Valtellina region of Northern Italy (pizzoccheri, a flat ribbon pasta). The difficulty of making noodles from flour that has no gluten has resulted in a traditional art developed around their manufacture by hand.
This Soba Noodle Salad can be eaten at room temperature, cold, warm or the leftovers stir fried. The next photo shows how I ate them cold the second day with tomatoes, avocado and sliced green onions added. It was really wonderful!
Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing
6 ounces soba noodles, broken in half
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar or palm sugar
¼ cup cilantro
1 cucumber, peeled, sliced lengthwise in quarters, then crosswise ¼-inch pieces (1 ½ cups)
1 red bell pepper, sliced in bite-size pieces (1 cup)
1 large carrot, grated, large holes on box grater, blot dry with paper towels
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
Optional: cherry tomatoes, seeded and quartered; diced avocado; sliced green onions, cooked chicken
1. Cook noodles in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under sold running water.
2. Puree peanut butter, vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, sesame oil, brown sugar and ¼ cup cilantro in mini food processor until smooth and creamy.
3. Toss together noodles, cucumber, bell pepper, carrot and peanut butter mixture. Garnish with remaining cilantro and chopped peanuts.