Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks was the first food blog I ever visited. It was 2008, I was a newly minted vegetarian, and I was searching online for a good recipe involving tofu. I came across the humble gem of a recipe for Caramelized Tofu, which I still to this day love, and a love of food blogs was born. The recipe seemed to marry so many disparate things that I would never have thought to put together: brussels sprouts (shredded up, no less), brown sugar, tofu, cilantro? But the end product was so good that I trusted her from then on.
I’m no longer a vegetarian, but I still love good vegetarian foods. Today I have a different recipe that I’ve adapted from Heidi, but one that has the same ingenuity of bringing together techniques and flavors I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own. I love ginger, I love lemon, I love soba. But the dressing on these noodles also incorporates mirin, brown sugar or honey, and celery, and the resulting flavor is very unique while still seeming just right. It’s tangy and refreshing, but combined with some pan-fried tofu (or any protein of your choice) it is undoubtedly filling.
These noodles come together in a flash, with the soba only taking 5 minutes to boil and the sauce getting whizzed up in a food processor. In my photos here I used baked tofu from the Asian market which is why it has the characteristic darker exterior, but regular firm tofu tastes just as good pan-fried. And this recipe is vegetarian/vegan as written, but I can imagine it would be good with just about any protein you’d like to mix in.
It’s a perfect spring recipe, so here’s hoping spring comes to you (and me!) soon.
Ginger Lemon Soba Noodles
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 package (about 10-12 oz / 300 g) dried soba noodles
1 tablespoon grated ginger (not powdered)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 cup / 70 g chopped white onion
1 teaspoon mirin (optional)
2 teaspoons brown sugar or honey
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons rice vinegar or brown rice vinegar
1 celery stalk, strings removed, then chopped
1/3 cup / 80g neutral oil such as vegetable oil or sunflower oil
a few big handfuls of cubed tofu, pan-fried or baked until golden
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, walnuts, or sesame seeds
Cook the soba noodles as per package instructions, usually around 5 minutes in boiling water. Rinse under cold water and drain.
Prepare the ginger dressing by combining ginger, sesame oil, lemon zest and juice, onion, mirin, sugar, salt, vinegar, celery, and vegetable oil in a food processor. Process until very smooth. Taste the dressing and add more rice vinegar, lemon, salt or ginger if desired – it is up to your taste. Remember that it will taste stronger straight, but when you add it to the neutral soba noodles, the sauce will mellow out.
In a large bowl combine the soba noodles with the tofu, seeds or nuts, and the dressing. Feel free to tweak seasoning again at this point, and serve. I find this is good cold, room temp, or hot.