How to Cook Japanese Soba Noodles: 6 Steps to Perfect Soba Noodles at Home by Chef Gigi Gaggero, Host of KSCU 103.3 FM LIVE Food Talk Radio S.F. Bay Area
Soba noodles are a really big deal in Japan and are becoming more popular in the United States. Made with buckwheat flour most of the time, they have a naturally nutty flavor. They are almost better served cold than warm (in my humble opinion). Soba noodles tend to be more delicate than other noodles (except glass noodles, which is a completely different post). Here are six steps to perfect soba noodles.
- Soba noodles are much more fragile than, say, spaghetti. They cook faster and are much more delicate. While Italian pasta can stand a bit of overcooking, most soba noodles will turn into a complete mess if you overcook them, even for a few seconds.
- The other big issue with soba noodles is clumping. You need to give them a lot of room to cook. I bring a big pot of water to boil for even 6 to 8 ounces of soba noodles. Give them lots of room to wiggle around as they boil.
- Set a timer! Seriously. I’ll eyeball pasta any day, but not soba. About 2 1/2 minutes will do the trick. Most boxes will say 3 minutes, but I think that’s a bit long .
- I like my noodles with a very slight bite. So, two and a half minutes and then they are out of the hot water and immediately plunged into cold water. This is the second most important step besides the timer. You have to cool these down ASAP. I prefer putting them in a bowl of cold water over rinsing them with cold water because rinsing them compacts the noodles down while the bowl of cool water gives them room to stay separate. I also throw a few ice cubes in my water bowl. Once the soba noodles are cooled down you can keep them like that for a bit, or drain them and dry them out on a few paper towels.
- I prefer to drain my noodles and just like pasta, I toss them in something oily to keep them from sticking. Use a small dash of sesame oil and soy sauce and also season them at the same time.
- Seal airtight in the fridge until ready to use. If eating them hot, just dunk them in a pot of hot stock or hot water right before serving them.
How to Use Soba Noodles
- Make a cold soba picnic salad with sesame oil, edamame, sesame seeds, seared tofu or tuna, and don't forget the chili flakes.
- My family loves them in a stir-fry topped with grilled or sautéed protein and lots of crunchy veggies.
- Add them to a warm soup – think soba chicken noodle soup.
- Kid’s love them and so does their lunchbox. Eat room temperature or slightly chilled.
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