Yield: 4 servings
Looking for something with an ethnic twist that’s easy to make for a light dinner? Just a handful of ingredients, well chosen, come together here in a Japanese-inflected salad. Matcha, the grassy green powdered tea of Japan, serves as the underlying counterpoint to the buckwheat noodles. Cubes of firm tofu, flecks of deeply toasted sesame seeds, a splash of sesame oil, and scallions are all you need for this easy do-ahead dish. If you wish to top the dish with some quickly steamed asparagus or bok choy, so much the better. And if you like your food spicy, sprinkle on a generous amount of shichimi togarashi, the bottled Japanese chile mix and then mix before diving in.
Coming on the heels of my recent cooking with tea sessions at the first annual San Francisco International Tea Festival, I am inspired to share this somewhat unorthodox use for matcha tea (though there is precedent for this in ochazuke, a classic Japanese hangover cure/snack of cooked, often leftover, rice served with bits of salted fish, seaweed, rice crackers, or even pickled plum, finished off with a hefty pour of whatever brewed tea, usually green, is on the table).
Although nowadays so many ethnic ingredients are available on your local supermarket’s shelves, if there’s a Little Tokyo near where you live, it’s always be fun to seek out a Japanese grocery to source the best quality soba noodles available in small packages, good sesame seeds and oil, and if you’re lucky enough to find it, locally made small batch tofu which makes the dish even more delicious, though still simple.
Note: For best results, marinate the tofu in the tea at least an hour or so in advance of making the dish.
Here’s the recipe:
10 ounces firm tofu, well drained and dried
1 T. Matcha tea (powdered green tea from Japan), dissolved in 1 c. hot, but not boiling, water
6 ounces dried soba noodles
1 T. roasted sesame oil
1/2 c. green onions (scallions), green and white parts, finely chopped
1 t. toasted sesame seeds (brown in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring the seeds constantly, or on a pan in a preheated 350 degree F. oven; watch carefully as these go from pale to burned in a matter of seconds)
Shichimi togarashi, as desired
Steamed or roasted thin asparagus spears, as desired
Steamed bok choy (Chinese cabbage, both white and green parts), roughly chopped, as desired
Light, low sodium soy sauce
Cut drained and dried tofu into small cubes, measuring approximately 1/2″ inch to 3/4″ inch squares. Brew the tea by whisking the hot water into the matcha powder until fully dissolved. Pour over the tofu in a bowl and allow to stand for about an hour at cool room temperature.
Bring salted water to a full rolling boil. Add the noodles, stir to separate and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain, wash under cold running water and then drain again. Pat dry and place in a large bowl. Add the sesame oil and lightly mix to coat the noodles evenly with the oil.
When ready to assemble the salad, remove the tofu from the tea marinade (reserve the marinade) gently combine the noodles, tofu, 2/3 of the green onions and 2/3 of the toasted sesame seeds. Place in serving bowls, garnish with the remaining green onions and sesame seeds. Top with the steamed or roasted vegetables, as desired, and pass the bottles of shichimi togarashi and soy sauce, allowing each guest to season the salad as they wish.