I go through phases with noodle dishes. For a long time it was pad Thai, after I learned the tricks for making it properly (cook the noodles in the sauce, not separately) at a cookery school in Chiang Mai. Then I transitioned to the even easier pad see ew, a deeply-flavoured tangle of thick rice noodles in a silky oyster and soy sauce with scrambled egg and vegetables – perfect once I discovered that ‘having a job’ and ‘spending three hours making a meal each night’ are not always compatible. My ‘diet food’ is a wholesome bowl of Vietnamese chicken pho, sipped soothingly at the end of a strenuous workout, although since I gave up meat I’ve struggled to replace the deep flavour of chicken broth. Then there is tom kha, Thai coconut broth, which always hits the spot no matter what mood you’re in, and to which I add a big handful of rice noodles, though it’s not entirely authentic. When I could afford crab (i.e. before I moved to Denmark), my noodle fix of choice was a bowl of shimmering glass noodles dressed with galangal, yuzu, soy and lime, into which I’d stir fresh crab meat, edamame beans and chunks of pomelo.
Recently, I’ve found that noodle salads are the way forward. The only cooking required is for the noodles themselves; simply toss with a selection of shredded vegetables and herbs, a few toasted nuts or seeds and a tongue-tingling dressing, and you have a satisfying, slurpable bowl packed with different textures and flavours. They’re slightly (only slightly, though) less messy to eat than a bowl of noodle soup, which – for me at least – always requires the formation of an impromptu bib out of a napkin or piece of kitchen paper.
This fresh, crunchy, flavour-packed beauty is inspired by the latest addition to Bluebird Tea’s matcha collection: a chilli and kale blend that packs a feisty savoury punch. It makes sense to combine the grassy tang of matcha with Japanese ingredients, and here it works perfectly in a luscious, umami-rich dressing of miso, ginger, soy and rice vinegar, adding a subtle bitterness and spicy kick. This recipe is based on one I make time and time again, from Diana Henry’s new book Simple, though I’ve tweaked a few things and added avocado and edamame to the mix for texture and creaminess.
This is, honestly, everything you could possibly want from a recipe. Super quick to prepare, no fancy techniques, minimal washing up, and a ludicrously rewarding tangle of soft, chewy noodles, crunchy vegetables, buttery avocado, toasted sesame and the sweet tang of pickled ginger. It’s the kind of healthy yet indulgent food my tastebuds crave on a regular basis, and the colours bursting out from the plate are enough to make you feel good before you’ve even tucked in. Plus there are the added antioxidant benefits from the potent matcha: it’s a lean, green powerhouse.
Crunchy veg soba noodle salad with ginger, sesame and matcha dressing (serves 2):
For the dressing:
- 2 tsp miso paste
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp pickled sushi ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp kale & chilli matcha from Bluebird Tea Co. (or another matcha)
For the noodles:
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- 1 tsp white sesame seeds
- 100g mooli (Asian radish)
- 2 large carrots
- 1 avocado
- 2 spring onions
- 150g soba noodles
- Two large handfuls of edamame beans
- A few fresh shiso or mint leaves, shredded, to garnish
First, make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients in a small bowl or jug. Taste and adjust as needed – you may want it a little more salty, sweet or sour.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan and set aside. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, finely slice the mooli into matchsticks and either do the same with the carrots, or use a spiraliser if you have one – it gives a nice texture. Put the carrots and mooli into a large bowl. Peel and slice the avocado and add to the bowl, then finely slice the spring onions and add them too.
Put the edamame beans and soba noodles in the boiling water and cook for around 4 minutes or until the noodles are just al dente. Drain the lot in a colander and rinse under cold water. Shake off any excess water and add to the bowl with the vegetables. Toss well with the dressing and vegetables, then divide between two bowls and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and shiso/mint to garnish.