new york revisited: soba noodles with pork and sweet ginger scallion sauce

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The last time I made this dish we were living in New York City. For old times’ sake and all that, I made it again, this time without sirloin steak. I used pork tenderloin for tender juicy bites to go with the sesame-soy-ginger-scallion sauce.

Soba noodles with sweet ginger scallion sauce (Modified from Simply Reem)

8-9 oz. dry soba noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons chili oil (substitute 2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic and 1 teaspoon oil)
Coarse salt, optional
Fresh ground black pepper, optional

Mix the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Cook the noodles.

Cook’s Note: To cook soba, rinse the dried noodles first. According to Food 52, this reduces the gumminess of the noodles and they won’t stick together in cooking. Like rice grains, I rinsed the noodles until the water was clear. Bring pot of water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook in simmering water 5-8 minutes or until cooked through. If al dente, cook a few minutes longer. Rinse and drain in cool water.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. If too sour, add up to a teaspoon sugar. Serve at once.

OPTIONAL: To make the pork, I thinly sliced about 1 cup of pork tenderloin and marinated it for 10-15 minutes in soy sauce and pepper. Then I stir-fried the pork in a 2 teaspoons of hot oil until cooked through. Toss with the noodles.

buckwheat noodles with beef and sweet ginger scallion sauce

Okay, okay, it’s not vegetarian! That is beef sitting on top of the noodles.

Buckwheat noodles, also called soba, are delicious, as I discovered last week when I added them to the Thai beef soup kao lao. Since I had an extra packet, I decided to try this recipe from a1dente.wordpress.com. I made two tiny adjustments. Instead of chili oil, I substituted vegetable oil and added 1/4 teaspoon chili paste, and I used maple syrup instead of honey.

I also made up my own beef marinade, but you can substitute soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for my marinade, and you can use chicken instead of beef, and firm tofu instead of any kind of meat at all. I spooned the noodles on top of chopped romaine lettuce. It’s delicious, trust me!

Buckwheat Noodles (Soba) with Beef and Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce

8-9 oz. dry soba/buckwheat noodles
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cup scallions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons chili oil (I used 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/4 teaspoon chili paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (I used organic maple syrup)
Coarse salt
Fresh ground black pepper

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

For meat lovers:
1 lb beef sirloin steak sliced into 3 inch strips across the grain
1 tablespoon hoi sin sauce
1 tablespoon soy-ginger sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Mix all the scallions, ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and honey in a bowl. Set it aside for 10 -15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  2. For Meat Lovers: Skip this step if you want the vegetarian version. Season the steak strips with hoi sin and soy-ginger sauces and the cornstarch. Chinese cooks often use cornstarch as a binder and thickener. According to America’s Test Kitchen, a little cornstarch seals the marinade to the meat during cooking. Chinese cooks have known this all along! Let sit 10-15 minutes while the noodle sauce flavors are developing. Heat 2 teaspoons oil on medium high heat and stir fry the beef until it just turns brown. Even though a little red streaks remain, stop. Do not overcook the beef.
  3. Boil the soba noodles per the package’s instructions and drain. Toss the noodles with the sauce and sesame seeds. Serve noodles hot on a bed of romaine lettuce. Spoon beef strips on top of noodles.

thai beef soup with buckwheat noodles

I was walking through the courtyard earlier this week, taking a shortcut through the basement, when I smelled star anise and cinnamon. I thought instantly of Thai beef soup or kao lao. I knew I had to make it this week, even though it’s been years since I last tried. From my years living in Thailand, I know that when it is served with noodles then it’s called kway tieow. I decided to cook it, kway tieow style with Japanese soba or buckwheat noodles, which are higher in fiber and protein, iron and calcium than the traditional rice noodles. Soba like rice noodles is gluten free.  There is  a nutrition comparison of soba and rice noodles on skipthepie.org. If you’re simply watching the calories, as I am, then it’s important to consider that a half cup soba has twice as many calories as rice noodles.

Thai Beef Soup (Kao Lao) with Buckwheat Noodles (Soba)

Makes 4 servings

For Cooking

7 cups water
1 lb stewing beef, boneless, trimmed of visible fat, and cut into chunks
1 whole star anise or 4 cloves star anise
2 whole sticks cinnamon
3-4 whole peeled large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons molasses or thick dark soy sauce

For Serving

1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and picked over
2 cups buckwheat noodles, cooked al dente
Fish sauce
Sugar
Sambal or chili paste
1 lime, quartered
2 scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal
1/3-1/2 cup cilantro, minced

Combine the beef, star anise, cinnamon, and garlic in 7 cups water. Cover loosely. Put two wooden chopsticks across the top of the pot and rest the lid on top of the chopsticks. Bring to a simmer on the stove. After 1 hour, stir the soup and skim the broth of large floating particles. You want a clear broth with tiny particles suspended in the soup when it is stirred. Remove the chopsticks and cover the pot. Once covered, the pot will boil vigorously and some water will boil out. Continue cooking on low heat for 1/2 hour.

Add the fish sauce, salt, sugar, soy sauce, and molasses. Taste. It should be slightly salty and sweet. Adjust seasonings, if you wish. Continue cooking on low heat to develop the flavors, until beef is tender and falls apart easily with a fork, about 2 hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks, garlic, and star anise.  Serve.

To serve, divide bean sprouts and noodles among 4 large bowls. Ladle beef soup over. Serve with little saucers of fish sauce, sugar, sambal, lime, scallions, and cilantro at the table, to season each individual bowl according to taste.