Otsu Japanese Noodles


One of the basics of vegetarian cooking is taking advantage of the wide range of noodles and pasta. Soba, the Japanese word for buckwheat, is made from Japanese grown buckwheat flour. There are a number of types of soba, either 100% buckwheat or with part wheat flour added, even flavored with green tea powder or seaweed. Soba contains all eight essential amino acids, including lysine, which is lacking in wheat, as well as antioxidants. So soba is very very healthy for protein as far as noodles go. I am not sure where the name Otsu came from, but it is a village in Japan outside Kyoto. Serve right away hot/warm (winter), room temperature, or cold from the fridge (summer). Leftovers are AWESOME served cold. Remove from the fridge, leave standing at room temperature for an hour or so, and amaze your taste buds at how delicious these noodles can be. The cucumber offers a pleasant crunch, the sesame/soy flavor is almost addictive. Add cubed sauteed tofu, if you like. A very “zen” dish like the monks make in Japanese temples… Make it, and you will be making it again, and again!

For the dressing:

Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce or wheat free soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

For the noodles:
12-ounces buckwheat soba noodles
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (toast in a dry skillet)

Make the dressing by combining the lemon zest, ginger, honey, and cayenne in a small bowl, mixing with a whisk (you can use a small food processor, if available). Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and continue mixing (or processing) until smooth. Drizzle the olive oil and the sesame as you mix, to form an emulsion. Set aside.
Cook the noodles in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes (do not overcook), drain, and rinse briefly in cold water. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add the prepared dressing, then add the cilantro and cucumber; toss to combine. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve. Add more fresh cilantro if you like.