An easy weeknight recipe when you feel like something delicious but light and don’t want to work too hard (or order Vietnamese on Deliveroo… again). My favourite thing about this recipe is how you can replace the elements with whatever is in your fridge – the tofu can easily be chicken or beef, the kimchi; brocolli and I would love some grated carrots or reconstituted dried mushrooms tossed in a little sesame oil on this also. Soba noodles are my preference here because they contain buckwheat flour …. plus the fact that they are tied into little bunches which is both visually appealing and convenient! Simple pleasures!
For the noodles:
- Soba noodles (2 bunches will feed 3 people, so take the majority of one bunch just for you). Or replace with any noodles of your choice. Cook these in boiling water then immediately cool under cold running water and set aside.
- Tamari or Soy sauce – 1 tbsp
- Rice wine vinegar – 1 tbsp (or use 1 tsp if you are substituting with balsamic vingear or white wine vinegar, which has a stronger flavour)
- Sesame oil – 1 tsp
- Sugar – 1 tsp. Ideally for the sweet element, use slow cooked onions caramalised in a little balsamic vinegar, but you’ll need to precook these and it’s a bit ‘extra for experts’ given this is meant to be a weeknight meal.
- Korean chilli flakes – 1/2 tsp (optional). I have specified these because they are milder than usual chilli flakes. If you don’t have them, just add a swig of hot sauce – careful not to overpower the rest of the flavours.
For the salad:
- Kimchi – 2 spoonfuls
- Cucumber – slices
- Firm tofu – sliced and warmed in a frying pan. If your tofu has no flavour, try dunking it quickly in some teriyaki sauce before cooking.
- 1 egg, boiled however you like it. I boil mine for no more than 6 minutes to make it a little soft inside.
- Sliced spring onions
- Japanese Mayonnaise. The one with the fat boy on the front. I have specified this due to flavour and because it comes in a squeezy bottle with a tiny hole which is perfect for getting just the right amount on the dish. There is a Norwegian brand called Mills ekte majones which is equally as good because it comes in little sachets where you can make a teeny nick in the corner to achieve the same effect.
First prepare the dressing. Combine all the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and Korean chilli flakes and stir together in a bowl. Set aside. Cook the noodles as mentioned above. Boil the water, cook to the specified time on the packet and drain immediately in cold water. This sets the noodles – often soba noodles are made using buckwheat flour, which will disintegrate if left hot for too long. Toss a small amount of sesame oil through them if they are sticking.
Boil the egg, cool it under running water, peel and, using a sharp knife, cut the egg in half and set aside.
Cut the tofu into strips and get ready to fry it. Heat some oil in a pan and heat the tofu through during the cooking time, which won’t take long, only a couple of minutes. Crisp up the outside a little for extra texture if you can.
For assembly, toss the noodles with the dressing and fill one third of a wide bowl (or a plate, who am I kidding) with them. Place the kimchi on the other third and arrange the tofu in another section, and the sliced cucumber too. Set your two egg halves on top, and take your Japanese Mayonnaise and complete the look with an arty squiggle (see figure 1 – title pic). Sprinkle the whole thing with chopped spring onions and / or chives and tuck in! It’s so pretty so don’t forget to take a photo first.