Soba with Peanut Sauce
It should be no surprise if you’re a regular reader around these parts that I enjoy spicy food. Normally, I turn to Southwestern food when I’m in the mood for some heat, but sometimes I’m not in the mood for something like a burrito or nachos.
These days I’ve been experimenting a lot more with Asian flavors which, trust me, pack plenty of heat. A few weeks ago I made a soba noodle dish with a fairly standard spicy peanut sauce. I mixed the soba noodles with lots of fresh veggies and some seared tofu and tossed everything in the peanut sauce.
It doesn’t look spicy, but it’s got some kick to it.
I think one of my favorite things about this dish is that it was pretty good at every temperature. On day one I had it at room temperature. On day two I had it cold for lunch as kind of a noodle salad dish. On day three, I brought it back to life in a super-hot pan with a touch of oil and stir-fried it. It was great all three ways!
1) Slice the tofu in half horizontally to make two sheets of tofu. Lay those two pieces on a few paper towels, add a few more paper towels to the top, and put something heavy on top to press out some of the liquid. Let sit for 15 minutes.
2) Prep all your veggies that you are using. Slice them thinly.
3) For the sauce, grate the ginger and garlic on a microplane zester. Then just whisk in all your other sauce ingredients.
4) To sear tofu, add a drizzle of chili oil to a pan over high heat. Then add the blocks of tofu and sear for about 3-4 minutes per side. Then cube them up after searing.
5) Cook soba according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander.
6) Toss all the ingredients together with sauce and serve.
Adapted from a Gourmet 2002 recipe (RIP)
If When I make this again, I think I wouldn’t use all those veggies. It was almost too much going on with the tofu and the cabbage and the peppers. I think it may have been better to just pick a few of them and go with it.
Preparing the Tofu
I really loved the seared tofu in this, but you could definitely leave it out if you aren’t a fan or sub it for chicken or shrimp.
Assuming you are using tofu though, you need to first press it to get out some of the moisture. Just slice your block in half horizontally.
Then lay those two pieces on a few paper towels. Add a few paper towels to the top and then stick a cutting board on top of the tofu. Add some weight to the cutting board (like a bowl of water or something). Let it sit for about 15 minutes. The weight will slowly press out a lot of extra water in your tofu.
Meanwhile, you can…
Prepare your veggies
Like I said, I think I overused some veggies in my version. It was a lot. Assuming you wanted to use napa cabbage though, you’d want to wash a few leaves and dice them up like so:
Regardless of what other veggies you decide to use though, I definitely recommend the peppers. They go great with the sauce. I kept my peppers in pretty big chunks for this recipe.
These are all my veggies chopped and tossed together. As you can see, it’s a lot. Especially once I added in the tofu and everything.
Preparing the Sauce
This sauce has a few ingredients in it, but they all add a lot. If you don’t want it so spicy, definitely leave out the sriracha and maybe cut back on the red pepper flakes. Also, if you don’t have rice vinegar, you could use red wine vinegar and nobody would be the wiser.
When it comes to sauces like this that have ginger and/or garlic in them, there’s one piece of equipment that is hands down the most useful thing you can have in your kitchen: A Microplane Zester!Once you get your garlic and ginger peeled, it takes just a few seconds to grate it up and then it integrates perfectly in your sauce! If you’re in the market, you can pick up a really nice Microplace Zester on Amazon.
You could of course chop it with a knife also, but it’s a lot more work. Trust me. It’s one of the best 12 bucks you’ll spend on a kitchen tool.
To finish the sauce, just whisk together all your ingredients in a large bowl. Easy enough.
Cooking the Tofu
You could keep your tofu raw if you wanted for this recipe, but I decided to pan sear mine quickly. I just added 1 Tablespoon of chili oil (you could also use a neutral oil like canola) to a pan over high heat and add my sliced blocks of tofu. After about 3 or 4 minutes on each side, they were browned and delicious.
I sliced them into cubes after searing them.
Cooking the Soba
I’ve only cooked with soba once before, but I really like it. It’s got a great nutty flavor that’s very different from other pastas.
Basically just cook the noodles according to the package. Drain them in a colander and you’re all set!
The next part got a bit messy for me. I wanted to mix everything together in a big bowl and let me tell you where I went horribly wrong: I didn’t exactly follow the recipe!
You see, the recipe called for 3/4 lb of pasta and I just threw in two boxes of soba which was 1 pound. So the noodle to sauce ratio was a bit off in my case.
I ended up with too much pasta, an abundance of veggies, and not enough sauce to make it all happy.
Anyway, after I tossed everything together, I added my tofu, along with some chopped peanuts and scallions for texture. My version turned out good, but not great. I think I maybe tried to experiment a bit too much instead of just following the recipe.
The good news is that the sauce is actually amazing. I think it would easily hold up to meats (chicken satay anyone?), but it works well in a noodle dish like this also… assuming of course that you use the right amount of noodles.
I’m being pretty picky with my criticisms. My version turned out more than edible. I think it could just be improved is all.
Do you have a go-to peanut sauce recipe? Leave a comment!