We need to talk about buckwheat noodles.
I recently learned three things about Japanese soba noodles (aka buckwheat noodles):
- They are naturally gluten-free.
- They have amazing health benefits: they help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and they are rich in fiber and antioxidants.
- They are incredibly difficult to photograph. Delicious as they are, when push comes to shove, a bowl of slippery brown noodles is just not that attractive.
Crispy golden tofu, on the other hand, is a beautiful thing ↓↓↓
I know it’s a bold move to post a vegan, gluten-free recipe in the middle of holiday season. But think of this healthy meal as money in the bank. Money you can spend on cocktails, cookies, and chocolate.
To give this quick weeknight dinner an even bigger nutritional boost, I added a pile of sautéed spinach. I love the flavors of sesame and spinach together, but you could also use bok choy, kale, or swiss chard. Go for a leafy green you can mix in with the noodles, so everything tangles together and each bite has a bit of both.
Let’s talk for a sec about this dressing. It’s a super-flavorful sauce you can mix up a week ahead and stash in the fridge. Use it as a sandwich spread or a dip for veggies. Basically, you can put it on anything and it will be yummy. Tahini, tamari, lime, toasted sesame oil, and fresh garlic and ginger. Plus a dollop or two (or three) of sriracha for spice.
If you can’t find soba noodles, you could substitute linguine. Or better yet, use zucchini noodles! And the tofu can easily be swapped for shredded rotisserie chicken. I had the idea to stop by our local sushi place and pick up some miso soup to serve in little cups on the side, but… I was too lazy.
And besides, why mess with one-bowl success?
- 1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 2 (8-ounce) packages soba noodles
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 (12-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, pressed (see note), and cut into squares
- 1 (8-ounce) package fresh spinach
- Chopped scallions, for serving
- To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- To make the soba noodles, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the noodles, then rinse them under cold water. Return the noodles to the pot, with a little water still clinging to them.
- Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and fry until golden-brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the spinach to the skillet and sauté just until wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Toss the soba noodles with enough sauce to coat them generously. Divide them between bowls and top with the tofu, spinach, and chopped scallions. Pass the remaining sauce on the side for dipping the tofu.
- In order to get crispy tofu, it's important to press out the extra water: line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Place the block of tofu in the middle. Top with another few layers of paper towels. Balance a heavy cast iron skillet on top and let stand for 45 minutes to 1 hour.