I *love* Japanese food. I could practically eat it every day. It’s low in fat, high in protein, if eaten correctly (balance of vegetables and carbs), it can be really healthy. You can screw up, naturally, and eat way too much white rice or fried foods too, but I usually have a careful eye on balance. The problem with Japanese food – my perception of course – is that in my experience it is fairly limited when it comes to diverse flavors. Soy, sesame, ginger, miso, rice vinegar – can get a bit boring over time.
For dinner last night I wanted to make something light and healthy and satisfying – and I picked Japanese for the evening. Bought fresh salmon and soba noodles, cucumbers, and such. I decided to make grilled salmon with a sweet ginger glaze, a spicy cucumber and radish salad and a soba salad (buckwheat noodles) as the starch. I didn’t want the soba noodles to compete with everything else, so I decided to take a completely different tack on the recipe: it should serve as the complex and satisfying backdrop for the other dishes. Enough punch so you would notice it, but nothing cloying with typical flavors of soy, sugar and vinegar.
In the end, what I ended up with was perhaps one of the best noodle salads I’ve ever made. I’ll try it again soon, with some small variations, to see how to make it even better. The trick was in fact to let the flavors of the ingredients shine, and not cover them with a sauce. Here’s what was in it:
Soba noodles – boiled for 4 minutes so that they are al dente
Reconstituted wakeme seaweed – couple handfuls, squeezed of all excess water
Enoke mushrooms – carefully pulled apart
Radish sprouts – a handful
Shiso leaves – a couple handfuls – a good 20-30 leaves, thinly sliced/chiffonade
Soybeans – a handful
Green onions – 2 – very thinly sliced/juliened
“Dressing” – not much of one – included: sesame oil, rapeseed oil, chili oil, salt, about two fingers of ginger, pressed with a garlic press. Everything to taste – tossed with all the other ingredients. The trick was to put enough of the oils in such that nothing stuck together or clumped, but not enough to make it feel dressed. I wanted salt rather than soy in particular, for the sharper flavor of salt – I didn’t want the fermented flavor of the soy bursting through everything.