Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

Serves: 6
Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

This is a wonderful vegetarian dish. It could serve as a substantial starter or add some fried firm tofu or chicken and you have a main course. The refreshing nature of the cold soba noodles, the sweet sharpness of the dressing and mangoes and muskiness of eggplant – it just could not be more perfect. Other fried vegetables could also be added – wander through your refrigerator and see what you can find. I love adding roughly chopped Marcona almonds on top just for a little crunch. 

Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. It has a correspondingly strong, nutty flavor. Generally we find dried soba in packets, but keep your eyes open for fresh soba at Asian markets.
Soba pasta
  • ½ C unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 Tb sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 jalapeno or ½ fresh red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 C sunflower oil (divided)
  • 2 large eggplants cut into ¾ inch dice
  • Salt
  • 8 to 9 oz soba noodles
  • 1 large ripe mango, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1¼ C basil leaves, chopped, divided
  • 2 C cilantro leaves, chopped, divided
  • ½ medium red onion, very thinly sliced
  • Chopped Marcona almonds – optional garnish 
In a small saucepan gently warm the ½ C vinegar, 3 Tb sugar and ½ tsp salt for up to 1 minute, just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 chopped chili and 1 tsp sesame oil. Allow cooling, and then adding grated zest and juice of 1 lime. Set aside.

Heat up sunflower oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry 2 large diced eggplants in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain and cool for at least 15 minutes.
Eggplant in our garden...
...and then diced.
Bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Unlike Italian pasta, you do not need to salt the water for soba noodles. Once it is boiling, hold the noodles over the water and sprinkle them in strand by strand. Once all the noodles are in, stir gently so that they are all immersed in the water. Bring the water back up to a gentle boil, and then lower the heat so the water is just simmering. (This differs from the rolling boil that is recommended for pasta.) If the water threatens to boil over, add about ½ C of cold water. But, if you lower the heat to a gentle simmer and have a big enough pot, this should not be necessary. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, or following the package instructions. Test by eating a strand – it should be cooked through and not mushy. Drain the noodles into a colander. When you are draining the hot water you may notice that it smells quite “floury”. This is what you want to get totally rid of. Rinse thoroughly under cold water. You want to wash the noodles. Take handfuls and gently swish about under running water.  Your goal is to wash off any trace of starchiness or gumminess on the noodles. When you are done the water should run clear. Shake off as much excess water as possible, and then leave to dry on a dishtowel.
Draining the steaming noodles
Drying the noodles
In a mixing bowl toss the cooled noodles with the vinegar dressing, 1 large diced mango, cooled eggplant, ¾ C chopped basil, 1 C chopped cilantro and thinly sliced ½ red onion. This can sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the basil and cilantro and mix well. Then, pile on a plate or bowl and serve.  Sprinkle with chopped almonds if desired.
Diced mangos 
Fresh basil (again from our garden)
This is quite refreshing and unusual. You, your family and your guests will appreciate the flavors, and healthy aspects in addition to the probably introduction to soba noodles. Give them a try – you will not be disappointed.
Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

Wine pairing can be challenging given the vinegar-based dressing. Beer and sake, of course. Champagne of course…but then, I always love champagne! Other wines that would likely work since the dressing is also quite sweet: Riesling or Viognier. Give them a try and let me know what works in your home.


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