Today’s post is my second Project Food Blog entry (see my first entry here). The challenge? “The Classics”. Each contestant must pick an ethnic classic that (s)he is unfamiliar with. We’re supposed to keep it as authentic as possible.
Ethnic food? Nothing new to me. Authentic ethnic meals? Okay, now you’re onto something. I make a lot of so-called “ethnic” dishes, but they are not usually true to the traditional recipe. I’m always modifying and Maggie-fying dishes, sometimes to the point that they are unrecognizable by the end. I always enjoy the outcome, but I will admit that I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. So this challenge is very… well, challenging for me (as it is supposed to be). The main reasons that I usually change a recipe are:
- I don’t have all the ingredients and I make substitutions
- I healthify recipes by reducing the amount of oil or adding extra vegetables
- I simplify recipes to make them quick and easy
My Challenge: Yasai Yaki Soba
Japanese food is a definite favorite for me, but I rarely make traditional dishes. I use a lot of Japanese ingredients, but I don’t make a lot of Japanese dishes. I leave that up to Bobby’s mom (one of my two favorite cooks – my mom being the other one). In my googling I came across a few recipes for Yasai Yaki Soba. I had to pick it because Bobby and I have an inside joke about Yakisoba (it involves a hysterical commercial they used to play on California TV). Turns out that I had almost all the ingredients needed and I only had to run out for 2 things: the garnishes.
Yasai Yaki Soba: What does it mean?
I know there are linguists out there (Lauren and Amber Shea!) that share my passion for words, so let’s break down this recipe to see exactly what Yasai Yaki Soba is.
Yasai = vegetable. Yaki = from yaku, which means “to bake or to grill”. Yaki appears in a lot of Japanese dish names – teriyaki, sukiyaki, takoyaki, okonomiyaki. Soba = buckwheat noodles. I had a lot of trouble finding Japanese etymology resources online, so all I can offer are these definitions. (If you know of a good resource please let me know!) So this is a veggie noodle dish that is “grilled” in a wok (fried). This version happens to be macrobiotic (if organic eggs count) and vegetarian.
Yasai Yaki Soba: The Recipe & The Details
I set about setting up my ingredients.
The main source of panic for me for this recipe? The vegetable oil! I never use that much to stir-fry things. I got over it though; I had to follow the recipe to be authentic. That is the point of this challenge.
Yasai Yaki Soba Recipe (Serves 2)
- 6 ounces soba noodles (dry weight)
- 1 green pepper, sliced and chopped
- 1 large thinly sliced carrot (I used a mandoline)
- 1/2 cup sliced onion
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine (mirin)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Yasai Sauce Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons rice wine (mirin)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder)
- pickled ginger
- sesame seeds (black or regular or both)
- Cook the soba noodles according to the package (usually 4 minutes in boiling water). Immediately rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Set aside.
- Beat the 2 eggs and mix in the seasoning ingredients. Add the veggies (pepper, carrot, onion, garlic) and then add the noodles (gently so they don’t break).
- Heat a wok over high heat for 1-2 minutes until it’s very hot (almost smoking), then add the vegetable oil. Add the noodly veggie egg mixture and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix together the yasai sauce ingredients while the noodles are cooking.
- Remove from heat, add the yasai sauce (while still in the wok), and mix. Divide between 2 dishes and top with the garnishes – ginger and sesame seeds.
Yasai Yaki Soba: What was challenging?
I had a few difficulties with this…
- I followed the recipes to a T – I actually went out and bought the specific garnishes that the recipe called for. And those garnishes made this dish exactly the classic dish I was hoping for! I don’t usually do this, but maybe I am missing out. The little things really do make a difference.
- The oil content. When I stirfry I don’t usually use this much oil. I use enough, but I never take the risk of using too much and making it soggy with fat. I used the amount it called for, but it turns out I was probably right – Bobby and I both prefer it less oily.
- It didn’t have as many veggies as I usually use, and I was tempted to add more in. When I make noodle-veggie dishes, I always use at least half veggies (in terms of volume). This had more noodles than veggies, but it made me appreciate the simple flavor of the soba.
So this challenge was awesome in that it made me appreciate the fact that I am actually a very good cook (Bobby loved it), I don’t have to always make uber-healthy food, and it solidified my love for true Japanese cuisine. Thanks Project Food Blog!
I will remind you how to vote for me tomorrow. I will also be back either later today or early tomorrow with my weekly roundup – I was out all day yesterday and didn’t get to it.
What’s your favorite ethnic dish?
Mine is papaya salad, duh. I would have made that except I’ve already made that lots of times.
*Note: I combined elements of 2 recipes to get this recipe. See here and here for my inspirations.
Welcome to any new readers! Check out my links in the sidebar to the right (must reads), or my tabs above (the salad story, yoga + fitness, recipes, and my recommendations).
I updated my recipes page. All recipes are waist-friendly, most are vegetarian or vegan, many are raw or macrobiotic – there are tons of options. I will be updating the layout of the page soon (I hope) to make it more navigable and sortable, but for now I am so happy that ALL my recipes are actually listed. Go look! There are 214 recipes on there as of today. I am really happy that I have that as a history of my cooking for the last 3 years. Here is #214.
Korean Recipe Rehab: Healthy Jap Chae Recipe
Last night we ate in, and I cooked. I cooked! I have not truly cooked in ages and I have missed it so. I read Women’s Health this weekend and they had a recipe for Jap Chae (a traditional Korean recipe – it’s a noodle dish) and I wanted to make my own version of it. I used to make Jap Chae all the time, but that recipe is different from this one. It’s lower calorie, but not as filling.
Since I’m not trying to lose weight I’m going to stick with this soba noodle jap chae recipe (which has a peanutty Pad Thai twist). Here is my Very Low calorie Jap Chae recipe. The one I’m about to post is still not that hefty either! It is certainly a waist-friendly recipe. (Note the options in parentheses after ingredients that can make it a lower calorie recipe – the mods are simple and shouldn’t change the taste.)
I opted to do this in typical Maggie fashion: a fusion Asian dish – soba noodles (Japanese), jap chae sauce (Korean recipe), and the addition of peanut butter (Thai) – it was awesome. Bobby agreed. This dish is even kind of macrobiotic; I approve of eggs on a macrobiotic diet.
Peanutty Jap Chae Soba Noodles (AKA Spunky Soba with a Twist)
Ingredients (serves 3-4, depending on appetites)
- 8 ounces soba noodles
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon (organic turbinado) sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes (could do less)
- 3 tablespoons PB2 or 2 tablespoons peanut butter (could do less but this makes it tasty)
- 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil (could do less; could use sesame oil if you don’t have peanut)
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed and roughly minced (could do less)
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 (non-recalled) eggs
- 3-4 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 medium zucchini, julienned
- Prepare the veggies. You will add them in the order listed above.
- Prepare the noodles according to the package. (Usually boil for 4 minutes then drain.)
- Mix the sauce while the noodles are cooking: soy sauce, sugar, chili flakes, PB2/peanut butter. (Do not need to dissolve the sugar yet.)
- Heat the peanut oil on high heat in a wok or large pan. Add the onion, garlic, and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes.
- Beat the eggs with a fork. Push the veggies to one side of the pan; add the eggs and scramble them there. It is ok if everything mixes together.
- Add the other veggies: celery and zucchini. Saute for 3-4 more minutes.
- Add the noodles (drained) and the sauce; stir a few times then turn off the heat. You can continue to mix to make sure everything is distributed evenly.
- Serve! This jap chae recipe is perfect alone: protein, carbs, and fat. Yum yum yum.
For dessert I had grapes; Bobby had a nectarine. I haven’t been into sweets lately. So strange.
What’s your favorite noodle dish?
Here are some of my other noodly recipes:
Enjoy, bookmark, share 🙂 Let me know if you make any of them!
P.S. Did anyone notice that Chrome had an update? I like it.
This recipe is from my week of failed menu planning. It was my second noodle dish of the week (first – Miso Eggplant Soba).
This is “Vietnamese” only because I added fish sauce and because cucumbers are vaguely Vietnamese (because lots of Vietnamese dishes have them; they don’t come from Vietnam). Vegan/vegetarian alternatives to fish sauce include (but are not limited to): vegetarian fish sauce, papaya juice, other fruit juice, rice vinegar + sugar, apple juice, and so on. I made this dish for lunches, and it was just as good as the other soba dish I made last week. Again, I don’t usually do noodles for lunch, but this was satisfying. I would probably have it for dinner (or even breakfast!) too.
Maggie’s Cold Vietnamese Soba
- 1 bundle soba noodles (1.5-2 servings; they come in bundles)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (could cut this down)
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- 1 small/medium cucumber, sliced or chopped
- dash of soy sauce (or bragg’s liquid aminos)
- Cook noodles as directed (boil for 4 minutes; rinse in cold water).
- Toss noodles with olive oil, chili powder, fish sauce, scallions, cucumber, and soy sauce (or bragg’s). Add more or less of the saucey ingredients, to taste.
- Serve garnished with cilantro (last week’s herb of choice).
So simple. I made this on Sunday afternoon (last Sunday, the 18th) when I was in a cooking mood (2 batches for 2 lunches). Sunday prep makes it easier to bring lunch during the week.
What’s your go-to lunch?
I first learned about soba noodles from my half-Japanese fiance. He introduced me to “zaru soba“, a favorite of his mom’s, which is simply chilled soba noodles that you dip in a soy saucey sauce. I made it way back in 2007. They are usually topped with scallions and bonito flakes and sometimes seaweed. Ever since my first bite of zaru soba I have been on the hunt for more delicious soba recipes. I found a recipe in The Dancing Gourmet and decided to Maggie-fy it into this…
(Note – I think this would also be awesome if you subbed mushrooms in for the eggplant. Just saying.)
Maggie’s Miso Eggplant Soba Noodles
Ingredients (serves 1-2; 1 as a meal or 2 as a side)
- 1 bundle of soba noodles (it’s probably 1.5 – 2 servings)
- 1/2 of a small/medium eggplant, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon miso
- 2-3 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- 1-2 tablespoons water (or more, as needed)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 of a medium cucumber, thinly sliced (mandoline again)
- a few spritzes of bragg’s liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
- Cook noodles according to package (usually boil for 4 minutes and then rinse in cold water).
- Saute the ginger and garlic in the olive oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add the eggplant and reduce heat to medium; saute for 2 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water if it starts to dry out.
- Add the miso, honey, and mustard and continue to cook over medium heat. Add more water as needed to make this into a creamy sauce. Cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the scallions, cucumber, and noodles. Spritz with bragg’s or soy sauce.
- Serve garnished with cilantro (or whatever is in your fridge).
This really was good. I brought it for lunch, which wasn’t the best idea as I don’t like having noodles for lunch, but it worked. I actually don’t like noodles in general so the fact that I liked this must mean it’s pretty delicious.
I have another soba recipe coming, so stay tuned…
What’s your favorite noodle? Do you even like noodles?