Soba means “buckwheat” in Japanese, and not surprisingly, soba noodles are made with flour milled from buckwheat groats. Both the noodles and tofu make satisfying background flavors for the slightly caramelized eggplant and ginger-soy dressing.
Soba Noodle Salad with Tofu and Marinated Eggplant
For the marinade:
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1⁄2 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, chopped
For the dressing:
1⁄2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. peanut oil
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
3 Asian eggplant, trimmed
Salt, to taste
8 oz. (250 g) soba noodles
1⁄2 tsp. peanut oil, plus 2 Tbs., or as needed
12 oz. (375 g) firm tofu, cut into 1⁄2-inch (12-mm) cubes
5 green onions, including tender green parts, thinly sliced
To make the marinade, in a large bowl, combine the 1 Tbs. sesame oil, 2 Tbs. vinegar, 2 Tbs. soy sauce, sugar and garlic and stir well. Set aside.
To make the dressing, in a large bowl, combine the 1⁄2 tsp. sesame oil, 1 Tbs. vinegar, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. peanut oil and ginger and stir to mix well. Set aside.
Halve the eggplants lengthwise and cut into 1⁄2-inch (12-mm) pieces. Add to the bowl with the marinade, toss and let stand for at least 1 hour.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add 1 tsp. salt and the soba noodles and cook until tender but not mushy, about 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain again, transfer to a bowl, and toss with the 1⁄2 tsp. peanut oil. Set aside.
In a wok over medium-high heat, warm the 2 Tbs. peanut oil, tilting the wok to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant cubes and cook, turning until they are golden and tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Put the tofu cubes in the wok, adding more oil if needed, and cook until they are just golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside along with the eggplant.
Put the soba noodles in the bowl with the dressing and turn to coat. Add the eggplant and tofu and mix and coat. Sprinkle with the green onions and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Find more vibrant and versatile salads for every season in our cookbook Salad of the Day, by Georgeanne Brennan.