Friday, January 7, 2011

Japanese Noodles - Udon, Soba, Somen, So Easy

The easiest place to start in a foreign market is to buy something that looks familiar.

At Asian markets, notice that Japanese noodles look like spaghetti.  But that can deceptive -- they're actually easier to cook, better for you, and often better-tasting as well.

The noodle selection can be intimidating, so start with the Hakubaku brand that sells udon, somen and soba noodles.  They're Japanese staples, and they go with flavors from all around the world from shikate mushrooms and traditional recipes in Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen to cayenne pepper and modern American cuisine like Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking.  

Japanese noodles are a pantry staple that will adapt to your tastes.  You can add them to soup.  You can make chilled summer salads.  You get noodles that are different enough to be interesting, but you can find recipes in many places so that you eat them with the vegetables and meat that you prefer.

Like pasta, the noodles can be part of a super-complex feast or the base of a weekend dinner.  Great if you're making a New Year's resolution about healthy cooking.  Fast if you only have 10-15 minutes cook.  Swanson's 101 Cookbooks site shows the range with even a single noodle -- soba noodles in everything from traditional miso soup to peanut noodle salad to curried noodle patties.  And that soba is buckwheat so it's whole grain as well.

Look for the Hakubaku brand of noodles at H Mart in Catonsville, Lotte in Ellicott City, or Super Grand in Laurel.  Check out my post about Asian markets in Howard County.

Once you've tried these, you can move down the aisle -- rice noodles galore . . . 

(adapted slightly from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking)

Note: Swanson's original recipe called for 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper.  I liked it.  Mrs. HowChow normally loves spice, but thought it was too hot.  Start with the 1/4 tsp below and maybe add a little to your taste.

Grated zest of one lemon
1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tbl honey
1/4 tsp cayenne (and maybe more later)
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbl lemon juice
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1/3 c. soy sauce, preferably shoyu sauce
2 tbl olive oil
2 tbl sesame oil
12 ounces dried soba noodles
12-14 ounces extra-firm tofu
3 green onions
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro with extra to garnish
1/3 c. sesame seeds, toasted

1) Combined the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add lemon juice, vinegar, shoyu, and oils.  Process again.

2) Cook the soba in boiling water according to the directions.

3) Drain the tofu and slice it in half into two thin sheets.  Then cut them into rectangles the size of your thumb -- 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch by one inch.  Cook tofu on a dry nonstick or cast iron pan.  Let them brown on the first side, then toss them for a few minutes until tofu is firm, golden and bouncy.

4) Mix the sauce, noodles, tofu and vegetables in a bowl.  Mix in the cilantro.  Then garnish with a litle more cilantro and the sesame seeds.

1 comment:

Mo said...

Will definitely be trying that recipe this weekend, I'm pretty sure I have everything on hand. Sounds great, thanks!