Recipe: Soba Noodle Salad With Tofu
Tofu. A lot of people think of “big cube of bland whiteness” when they hear that word. I, on the other hand, grew up eating tofu and never thought negatively about it until I realized how the poor loaf has been butchered into some pretty insane and tasteless creations in order to fill some hole in the healthy food world. Although it certainly makes a good, high-protein substitute in one’s diet for chicken or fish, it doesn’t always mean tofu will be good when used in the same way that meat or fish is used. It’s got a completely different makeup, texture and flavor than any meat or fish so it should be treated like the unique ingredient it is.
I have to admit, tofu does make a pretty great substitute for eggs. When mashed with a fork and sautéed with veggies, salsa and spices, the texture comes close to that of scrambled eggs. However, just because you miss a juicy burger doesn’t mean that forming mashed tofu into a patty and throwing it on a grill will make you kiss beef goodbye. Tofu is a great added to dishes that need some neutral tasting protein kick and works best, in my humble opinion, with Asian flavors.
Here’s a simple recipe for a refreshing summer noodle salad that is a perfect vehicle for seared tofu. Although chicken or beef would work fine in this dish, the softer texture of tofu marries especially well with the slightly al dente-ness of the soba noodles.
Soba noodle salad w/ tofu
Whenever you’re cooking tofu, try to get the water out of it by putting it in between two thick layers of paper towels, then setting a plate on top of the top layer of paper towels. Let it sit for about 20 minutes and it will drain a lot of the water out.
½ pack of extra firm tofu
1 package dried soba (buckwheat) noodles
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
½ cup diced scallions
¼ cup chopped cilantro
4 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS toasted sesame oil
2 TBS grated fresh ginger
2 TBS honey
2 tsp sambal oelek (chili paste)
1 TBS rice wine vinegar
Take tofu out of the pack and drain between two thick layers of paper towels for 20 minutes.
Put the tofu in your hand, and cut the tofu while holding it very carefully (so you don’t cut yourself). This is the traditional way to cut tofu- Japanese don’t put it on a cutting board because tofu is so absorbent. If you are careful you should be able to do this easily, and tofu is very soft so it doesn’t require a lot of pressure. Cut into rectangles about 2 inches long and ½ inch thick. Sear tofu for about 3 minutes on each side in a hot, non-stick skillet. Set aside.
Mix all of the ingredients of the dressing in a blender or a jar- blend well. Set aside.
Cook the soba noodles in boiling water for 4 minutes, then remove from the heat and shock in cold water to stop the cooking process.
In a large bowl combine the noodles with the vegetables and dressing, toss well, top with tofu and sesame seeds. Serve cold or room temperature.