When I recently dined at Namu Gaji, the Korean-California small bites restaurant in the Mission, there were a few dishes that really blew my mind. One of them was a last-minute order of the bibim salad, a refreshing and satisfying soba noodle salad with an incredibly light vinaigrette.
I was already a fan of soba, the Japanese buckwheat noodles that can be eaten in soup or alone with a light dressing. (In Hawaii, we typically ate them with just a light dressing because it’s always hot there.) And I’ve made soba noodle salads before, but I really enjoyed the crunchy vegetables and simple dressing at Namu.
I’m guessing that the dressing was probably made with rice wine vinegar and a bit of sugar, but for some spice I added the Korean hot sauce known as gochuchang. As for the vegetables, you can use whatever is in season. For example, I wanted to use Savoy cabbage or maybe Napa cabbage, but couldn’t find any at my local store. So I ended up getting a really fresh-looking romaine lettuce and grabbed a Belgian endive for extra crunch.
Play with the ingredients. This is perfect for summer, so I know I’ll be making it several times in the next few months. Enjoy!
Korean-style Soba Noodle Salad Recipe
Makes four servings
6 oz. soba noodles
1 small head of romaine lettuce (about 2 to 3 cups)
1 Belgian endive
1 cucumber, julienne
1.5 oz. micro greens
pine nuts and kim chee for garnish
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
2 t sesame oil
1 or 2 T sugar
1 T gochuchang (optional)
Boil pot of water and add soba noodles with some salt. Cook per package instructions (typically 4 minutes) and drain. Rinse in cold water and drain again, then set aside. (TIP: It’s important to rinse the noodles so it doesn’t get gummy.)
Chop lettuce and endive into thin shreds (across the lengthwise). Remove seed from cucumber and cut into long thin julienne strips like noodles. Toss lettuce, endive, cucumber and micro greens in a large salad bowl. Add soba noodles and garnish with kim chee and toasted pine nuts.
In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing. It’s important to taste to see if you need more sugar or vinegar. When it’s to your taste, drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving. Eat immediately.
TIP: If you’re not planning to eat all the salad at once, separate into servings and then pour the dressing only on what you’re planning to eat. If you leave the dressing in the salad, the noodles will absorb it and get all spongy.
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