Saturday, September 7, 2013

Spicy Soba Noodles

Teachers have mastered the art of foreshadowing seasonal cold epidemics at the sound of the first sniffle vibrating softly from some poor kid's boogery nostrils in the back of the room.  Over time, we build up immunities to these outbreaks and earn the right to laugh at the first-years who seem perpetually plagued with disease.  I swear a freshman could sneeze down my throat and I'd be fine.  No, stronger. 

So why am I sick?  Why the hell am I sick before even making it to mid-September?  I'm obviously weakening, and so is the rest of the suburban Chicago race of teenagers who cough in unison before me.  I've accused every last one of those little snifflers of being the vector of it all. 

What stinks about being sick when its still ninety degrees is that 1) no one wants to be on the couch rather than enjoying the outdoors, and 2) traditional remedies of hot soups and teas just won't do.  So, I needed something chilled to room temperature, but still packed with every source of capsaicin I could think of.  I decided on a cold (but hot) soba.

If you've never had buckwheat soba, it's a really great noodle for chilled salads (especially if you're going with Asian flavors).  It holds its firmness really well, and noodles do a good job of taking on the perfect coating of sauce without feeling slippery.  Perhaps it would also be a timely way to celebrate Tokyo's winning bid for the 2020 Olympics.

As a warning, this recipe is hot hot hot.  If you don't need the sinus-clearing effect I was going for, then you can leave out the jalapeno and/or cut back on the sambal.  
Random good new side note: Jenessa's Dinners made it into a Buzzfeed post

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
  • 1/2 lb. buckwheat soba noodles (200 g/or 2 bundles if that is how your soba is packaged)
  • 1 cup cooked edamame beans
  • 2 cups finely chopped cabbage or cole slaw mix
  • 14 oz. (usually one package) extra firm tofu
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned 
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced thinly 
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Spicy Sauce:
  • 3 tbsp. Korean sweet and spicy sauce ("gochujang"), or Thai chili paste if that's easier to find
  • 2 tbsp. sambal or sriracha
  • 1/2 tbsp. horseradish paste
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove top.

Start by slicing the tofu into six slabs, and pressing them gently between a few sheets of paper towel.  Let them sit between the paper towel for about 10 minutes to drain the excess water.
Meanwhile, chop your red pepper, jalapeno, scallions, and cabbage.  Mince the ginger, as well.
Make the sauce by stirring all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Coat the tofu slabs with most of the sauce in a small baking dish.  Toss the pepper and jalapeno together with a little sauce, as well.
Bring a grill or frying pan to high heat, and cook the tofu well on each side.  In the same pan, you can cook the pepper and jalapeno.  Be sure not to discard the remaining sauce in the baking dish.
While the tofu and peppers cook, place the noodles in boiling water for 4-5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  When dry, toss in the baking dish with the remaining sauce and sesame seeds. 
You can transfer the noodles into a large bowl to toss with the edamame, cabbage, and scallions.
When the tofu and peppers are done, allow to cool a bit, cube the tofu, and toss with the noodles.  If the final dish seems a little dry, add a bit more gochujang and sesame oil.


  1. Oh no! Sorry to hear you're sick! Next time I am this will definitely be my comfort food.

  2. i just bought gochujang for the first time! this recipe looks awesome.

  3. Do you have a sponge in your kitchen that you touch! Throw it out and use a dish-rag, and disinfect it every night in the sink with some oxy cleaner. It's your sponge that is breeding the germs, I'll bet. People who are sick usually have a sponge in their kitchen...

  4. I came across your blog while looking for some recipes with noodles and liked a lot. How amazing! I will keep an eye on your post.
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  5. Thank you - looks delicious!