When I’m in the mood for a lazy lunch, I make a soba salad. I’m a big fan of soba noodles themselves–all dark and slippery-soft and nutty–and they’re especially nice with a lightweight soy dressing and some scallion and sesame. Problem is, soba salads need either precision or pizzazz to be really special. I tend to just wing it, and so my salads come out…plain. Slightly soggy. Generic. I like them, but they don’t quite rock my world. So I haven’t shared any of my attempts here.
Until now. Because kimchi.
I don’t remember where I got the idea to add kimchi to a soba salad. Maybe it was because I had some leftovers kicking around after making kimchi fried rice. Maybe it was because so many soba salad recipes call for cabbage of some sort, and I hate hacking up a whole head to use only a handful. Maybe it was just a screaming urge to do something a little different. Whatever it was, it worked like gangbusters. Turns out that soba noodles, with their gutsy buckwheatiness, are a perfect foil for spicy, crunchy, oh-so-slightly fizzy kimchi.
Now, fair warning: I used a lot of kimchi in this salad. It ended up being almost half kimchi and half noodles. I had absolutely no problem with this, but if you’re not as crazy for kimchi as I am, you could easily back down the amount by half. I also tried mixing some of the leftover kimchi brine into the dressing, but the extra liquid made the salad soggy, so I’m going to say that’s unnecessary. Depending on your spice tolerance and the heat level of your kimchi, you could certainly boost the red-chili factor with a glob of Sriracha in the dressing–I can neither confirm nor deny that I did this.
The beauty of a soba salad like this is that it’s equally delicious at room temperature the day it’s made, and cold from the fridge the next day. My boyfriend–a software engineer who gets fed for free at work–was so smitten with this salad that he requested I leave him the leftovers. He told me later that they made a great midnight snack. That’s about the highest praise I can think of.
Kimchi Soba Salad (serves 4)
2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar, or to taste
1 tbsp soy sauce, or to taste
1 tbsp lime juice (about 1 medium lime’s worth), or to taste
1 tsp toasted sesame oil, or to taste
1 tsp honey, or to taste
Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste
1 small garlic clove, minced or finely grated
4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts separated
1/2 lb (8 oz) soba noodles
2 cups kimchi (storebought or homemade), drained and roughly chopped
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, sesame oil, hot sauce, garlic, and the white parts of the scallions. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside to let the flavors mingle for about 10 minutes, while you prepare the noodles.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles for 3-4 minutes, or until they’re just tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water, until the noodles are completely cool and the water runs clear. Gently pat or shake the excess water from the noodles, then transfer them to the bowl with the dressing. Add kimchi and toss to combine. (At this point, the salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day.)
Garnish the salad with sesame seeds, cilantro, and the green parts of the scallions. Serve cold or at room temperature.