Everyone needs at least one quick and easy soba salad in their lunch line-up. Soba is nutty and nutritious, and tossed with fresh vegetables, it can be a worthy companion to the best of the season. This particular salad is an old favorite. It's a refreshing, addictively crunchy meal that just happens to be vegan. Quick soba noodles are tossed with sesame oil, shaved carrots, scallions, and a little soy sauce. Simple and cool.
I have to admit, though, that for a long time I didn't care for soba. Buckwheat and I don't always see eye to eye; I usually find its flavor overwhelmingly musky and damp. But the exception to this is mugwort soba, like these noodles from Eden Foods. Mugwort is a bitter green herb often used in Japanese cooking, and with it added to the soba, these noodles have a milder, cleaner nuttiness and a charming green color.
If you're motivated to do so, I'd also highly recommend making your own soba noodles, which can taste much better than the dried stuff. Nutty and chewy — so good!
But whatever noodles you use — plain soba, mugwort soba, or homemade soba — this salad is fast and easy. It's very good on its own for lunch or a cool dinner, but it would also make a good side dish for stir-fried chicken or spicy grilled steak.
Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad
8-9 ounces soba or mugwort soba
1/2 pound carrots, about 3 to 4 medium
1 bunch (about 6) scallions
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Cook the noodles for 6 to 8 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain and toss with just a drizzle of cooking oil to keep them from sticking together. Put in the refrigerator to cool.
Peel the carrots and shave with a peeler or mandoline. You should have about 3 loosely packed cups of carrot shavings. Trim the scallions and chop the green and white parts into 1/2-inch pieces.
Whisk the rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar and taste. Add a little more soy sauce or sugar if desired. Use two forks or tongs to toss together the chilled noodles, carrots, scallions, and noodles with the dressing. Toss with the sesame seeds. Serve warm or chilled. Store in a covered container for up to 3 days.
This post and recipe have been updated. Originally published 9/04/07.
(Images: Faith Durand)