I've been noticing daffodils popping up in gardens all over the city. A couple of the buds in my garden are also breaking through the surface and sticking their heads out. Maybe this is a real sign or its wishful thinking at my end to really believe that winter is finally on its way out and spring is slowly sneaking in. Till then I will ignore February's wintry feel and take pleasure in the delights that come packed in nature's seasonal produce.
Soba noodles are one of my favorite varieties of noodles to chomp on. I love them cold or hot and I absolutely adore their versatility when it comes to cooking with them. There's just so much you can do with them that I always keep an "emergency" stash stocked away for those moments (kinda like my "emergency" chocolate stash). You can make a whole meal out of this salad or serve it as a salad on the side, it will never disappoint. Its sweet, sour and hot flavors will win you over.
I packed some heat into this salad using a popular Asian chili paste called Sambal Olek, you can find it any grocery store or international food market. If you like your salad hotter, add some more sambal olek to the oil. This salad is bursting with seasonal flavors, I've tossed in some sweet potatoes and bok choy and seasoned it with freshly grated ginger root. The dressing uses freshly squeezed orange juice which brings out the flavors of the ingredients and adds a mild sweetness to balance the heat of the chili. My favorite way to eat my soba noodle salad, sitting on the couch covered with a blanket and staring at the weather outside with Snoopy.
winter soba noodle salad
yields: 4 - 6 servings
4 cups of water
3 bundles of soba noodles
1 tablespoon wild sesame oil (or regular sesame oil) + 1 tablespoon (for dressing)
1 teaspoon sambal olek
1 teaspoon ginger root, freshly grated
2 cups sweet potato, finely diced
2 large green onions or scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
4 bunches bok choy, leaves separated
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1. Bring the water to boil on a medium high flame in a stockpot. Remove the noodles from the packaging and add them to the boiling water. Cook the noodles for 4 minutes or until tender, immediately drain and run cold tap water over the noodles until completely cool. Drain the noodles completely and keep aside until ready.
2. In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil on a medium high flame. As soon as the oil gets hot, add the sambal olek and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ginger and sweet potatoes. Stir fry and cook for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are cooked and tender. Add the white parts to the wok along with the bok choy and stir fry and cook until the stem of the bok choy are tender. This will take about 5 minutes. Season with the salt and remove the wok from the stove and keep aside.
3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking the 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, soy sauce, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and pepper.
4. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooled noodles, the stir fried vegetables with the dressing. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill the noodles in the refrigerator for at at least 1 hour before serving.