Soba Noodles! It’s hard to find enough good things to say about Japan’s superhero of the pasta world. Made from a combination of wheat and buckwheat flours, they have a very distinct, light, fresh flavor with virtually unlimited applications. You can serve them warm with an intense sesame peanut sauce, or you can serve them chilled, as we’ll do here, for a lighter meal that’s perfect for lunch this time of year.

In fact, this dish is the epitome of spring in my mind: fresh chilled noodles, bright green onions, a creamy citrus cashew sauce, all garnished with bursting blood orange pieces and crispy tofu – if this lunch doesn’t get you through the afternoon, nothing will…

Soba Salad Close

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (10 oz) soba noodles
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 8 oz extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (soaked) cashews
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger

Soba Salad Bowl

This recipe is really simple to throw together. There are 4 moving parts – the noodles, the sauce, the tofu, and the add-ins, but if we work on all these pieces simultaneously, the entire dish can be finished in 15 minutes, here’s how:

Step One

Begin heating a large pot of water for the noodles and then turn your attention to the sauce: add the cashews, water, orange juice (you can use blood oranges or any other variety), soy sauce, garlic, and ginger to a blender and blend on high until very smooth. You’ll want this to be the consistency of a good pasta sauce, so feel free to add more water if it seems too thick. Set this sauce aside.

Step Two

Make the tofu! If you’re in a rush, you can simply slice the tofu into thin planks, squeeze out the water with paper towels, and fry in a hot skillet with a drop of vegetable oil until crispy. Or if you have a few more minutes, see my how to cook tofu article that explains all the secrets of making perfectly crispy tofu every time.

Step Three

When the pot of water is boiling, add the soba noodles. These cook very quickly (like 4 minutes) and overcooking can result in noodles that stick together (not good!), so keep an eye on them. Meanwhile, cut up the blood orange into little chunks (you can use any other variety if blood oranges are too hard to find), slice the green onions, and loosely chop the cilantro.

Step Four

As soon as the noodles are no longer firm in the middle, remove them from the heat and strain with several rinses of cold water. This will remove the excess starch that can lead to gummy noodles that clump together. When they’re thoroughly rinsed and cooled, transfer to a mixing bowl and pour in the sauce. Use your hands or tongs to gently mix together until the noodles are perfectly coated. Finally, toss again with the green onions, cilantro, and blood orange.

This dish works best at room temperature or slightly chilled. To serve, simply add the noodles to a bowl and top with slices of the crispy tofu.

Spring Roll Variation

After making this for the first time, I opened my refrigerator the next day to find that the noodles had clumped together. I was able to thin out the sauce with a few drops of water but then I realized an even better use for the leftovers: spring rolls! Simply add a few spoonfuls of the noodles and toppings onto softened spring roll wrappers, roll ’em up, and enjoy.

Soba Noodle Salad