Spicy Sesame Soba with Kohlrabi
A flavorful sauce and crunchy kohlrabi set this cold noodle salad apart from the crowd.
for the sauce:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon tahini
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek
- 1/2-1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sukang pinakurat spiced coconut (tuba) vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 inch knob ginger, grated
for the noodles:
- 1 bunch scallions, whites and greens chopped
- 2 100 g bundles soba noodles
- 3 kohlrabi with greens peeled and chopped (ribs removed if tough)
- sesame seeds
- additional sliced scallions
In a medium skillet, heat some oil. Saute the greens and bulbs until the greens wilt and soften and the bulbs are fork-tender. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to package instructions. Rinse in cold water until cool. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients.
Place the cooled kohlrabi and noodles in a large bowl drizzle with sauce. Use tongs to toss the mixture until the sauce is evenly distributed. Divide into 2 bowls and serve.
- Recipe can be easily doubled.
- If you can't find sukang pinakurat (spiced coconut tuba vinegar), try some rice vinegar instead. I used Datu Puti Pinoy Spice (Tuba) Vinegar
- Soba noodles are often sold in 800 g bags with 8 individual, tied bundles of noodles inside. Each bundle is a serving.
- Used a ginger grater to grate both the fresh ginger and garlic for the best results.
- I love kohlrabi in this but spinach, zucchini, and/or cucumber would also probably be good.
I am not making any claims to authenticity of any sort with this recipe. When I’ve had soba at Japanese restaurants it’s been served with a sauce to dunk it in or in soup, not tossed with sauce. When I’ve had Korean cold buckwheat noodles (naengmyeon) they’ve been served in a chilled broth with cold cucumber, egg and pear. This is clearly not any of that.
Soba is interesting to work with because it is made with buckwheat, not wheat and it keeps it’s texture and shape despite being thin, making it perfect for cold salads. There are a lot of recipes out there for various types of sesame noodles using soba tossed with various vegetables and I’m not really sure how they became so popular but I think it is because of the properties of soba and some sort of amalgamation of the dishes I talk about above and Chinese-American take out style sesame noodles. I found this history
tracing sesame noodles back to a place in NYC’s Chinatown but I couldn’t track down a link to why they are so often made with soba in recipes I find online when the take out versions use wheat-based noodles. Chinese noodles are also normally made with Chinese sesame paste which is a little different tasting than tahini. So, again, I am not making any claims that this is some authentic recipe of any cuisine. This is a real “make use of the pantry and what I have on hand” dish.
I can see the popularity because they are surprisingly light and since they are served cold and cook in minutes, it’s perfect for a hot day. I see a lot of recipes that call for the noodles to be served with just sauce but I am all about loading up dishes with vegetables to make a more complete meal.
I got kohlrabi in my produce box and the bulbs were still attached to the greens. The bulbs will keep for a few weeks in the fridge but the leaves start to fade fast. I actually had a huge bunch so I prepped it all (I discarded the ribs but you don’t have to if they aren’t very thick or tough) and sauteed it up very plainly and divided it up. Half for this dish and half for something in the future.
I love kohlrabi. It can be a little tricky to find, your best bet is a farm stand, farmers market or CSA, but its worth seeking out. A lot of recipes discard the leaves and focus on the crunchy bulbs but the leaves are pretty tasty too. Not as peppery as mustard or turnip and similar in texture to collards, they hold their shape and texture even after they are well-wilted down. That makes them perfect for tossing with these cold noodles! The kohlrabi bulbs (my husband thought it was potato at first glance) can be eaten raw but if you are going to leave them in chunks (and I would, for texture interest in this dish) vs shredding or matchstick-ing them, I think they are better cooked until they are about fork-tender. They are still quite firm and crisp but you can bite into them without worrying about needing a dental visit afterward.
I used a real mishmash of ingredients in the sauce from all over the world (Filipino vinegar! Indonesian chile sauce! Middle Eastern tahini!) but they come together to make a simple but incredibly tasty and complex tasting sauce. It really was the perfect lunch for a hot summer day.