Slurping Soba Noodles
Japanese buckwheat noodles: ramen's greatest fear
If I were a noodle, and this is a hypothetical situation I've invested a lot of emotional energy in, I would be soba. I've had a lot of noodles of mixed composition in my life, gluten-sensitive as I am, and have found the 80% gluten-free buckwheat to 20% wheat flour ratio to be surprisingly tolerable. Either that or the combination of soba's delicious earthy, nutty flavor and subsequent glutencinations (gluten-induced hallucinations — don't knock 'em til you've tried 'em) are tricking me into believing I'm okay. Either way, I'm completely into this noodle.
I don't believe that ramen has a lot of foods to be jealous of — David Chang devoted the first issue of his hipsterrific foodie 'zine, Lucky Peach, to the Japanese noodle dish, complete with ramen pantheon. If it has a pantheon, you know it's good. But if I were ramen, a less-frequent pondering, I'd probably still be jealous of soba.
Soba isn't mass-manufactured in dehydrated cakes and sold for 50 cents a pack. It's also not pigeonholed into hot noodle soup. No, soba is an truly an art form, carefully crafted by hand and eaten hot or cold, in soup or straight-up with nothing more than a dip in soy and rice vinegar. Plus, the last time I checked, ramen was still waiting at the door to the sandwich club. Soba got in. Soba and sesame-peanut sauce also get along really well, all chilled out. And any food traditionally eaten on New Year's Day in Asia probably bests anything else as a hangover cure. What's that? The Japanese eat soba on New Year's Day? Hm...
Okay, enough pandering. Here's my favorite homemade soba lunch: Cook noodles according to directions, then drain, rinse thoroughly with cold water and return to the pot. Toss with a little sesame oil, sesame seeds, a spoonful or two of peanut butter, a splash each of soy sauce and rice vinegar, julienned cucumber, sliced scallions and some kind of leftover meat (roast chicken works great). Transfer to a container, let sit overnight to allow the noodles to absorb the flavors and enjoy the next day, right out of the fridge.
Do I have something against ramen? I do not. At various points in my life, I've practically lived off the stuff. Oh, just figured out what I have against ramen. Snap.