Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spicy Soba Noodles with Smoked Tofu, Shiitakes and Cabbage

I'm not sure when I first stumbled across this recipe (or why), but it has been sitting in my draft post folder for some time.  My best guess is that I was looking for recipes using soba noodles and decided to bookmark this one for future use.  Who knows?  But I'm a sucker for shiitake mushrooms, edamame and soba noodles, so it totally makes sense that this recipe sounded good to me.  I decided to use more edamame than the recipe called for (it originally wanted a cup of edamame, but I figured why not use the entire 12 oz bag of frozen edamame) and to add some smoked tofu.  I figured that the tofu would add some smoky flavor, and both ingredients would up the amount of protein in the dish to make the dish more filling.  I also cut back on the amount of noodles in the original recipe after reading through some of the reviews posted on Epicurious.  I love soba noodles, but why not make the healthy choice and go a little heavier on the veggies and a little lighter on the carbs?

When I was explaining the recipe to Alex, he called it "Korean vegetable spaghetti."  And he kept referring to it as "Korean spaghetti" all evening.  Spaghetti wasn't the first thing that came to mind for me when I saw or tasted the dish, but to each their own.  I see what he was saying.  It's a noodle dish with lots of veggies - in theory it's like a pasta primavera, only not so much.  First of all, I have never had a spicy pasta primavera before.  Second, none of these ingredients (except for the garlic) would go anywhere near a pasta primavera recipe.  Some of the reviews complained that the sauce here was bland, but I totally disagree.  I know we went light on the noodles (and noodles typically soak up and therefore require a lot more sauce than veggies) and added smoked tofu (which is pretty flavorful on its own), but I actually liked how the addition of the soba noodles mellowed the sauce a little and offset the spicyness of the gochujang.  I was worried that the recipe didn't call for the addition of any salt prior to the addition of the sauce (with the exception of the salt in the boiling water for the noodles and edamame), but after adding the sauce I'm glad we didn't salt it initially.  If we had salted the vegetables I think the dish would have been too salty overall.  If I were to make the dish again I would probably keep the ratio of sauce to noodles the same, but I could vary the vegetables according to what I happened to have on hand.  I think you could play with those proportions to your heart's content without detracting from the dish at all.

Recipe after the jump!

Spicy Soba Noodles with Smoked Tofu, Shiitakes and Napa Cabbage
Adapted from Gourmet
August 2007

For sauce:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup light soy sauce
2 to 3 tsp Korean hot-pepper paste (sometimes labeled "gochujang"), to taste (we used 3 tsp)
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
For noodles:
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
10 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
medium Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about 5-6 cups)
3 1/2 oz smoked firm tofu, cut into roughly 1/2-inch cubes
6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tsp Korean red pepper flakes
1/2 oz frozen shelled edamame
6 oz soba (buckwheat noodles)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Stir together all sauce ingredients until brown sugar is dissolved, then set aside.

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté ginger and garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shiitakes and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender and starting to brown, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add cabbage and most of scallions (reserve about a tablespoon for garnish) and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Add tofu and toss to combine. Add sauce and simmer 2-4 minutes, until ingredients are combined and sauce has reduced slightly.

While cabbage is cooking, add edamame to a large pot of boiling salted water. As soon as the water returns to a boil, add soba noodles. Cook until noodles are just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cool water to stop cooking and remove excess starch, then drain well again. Add noodles to wok and toss to combine.  

Serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and reserved scallions.

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