Soba Noodle Bowl with Kimchi and Satay Sauce
One quality I highly admire in people is their ability and willingness to try new or “different-than-usual” foods. While some people sometimes seem to be afraid of new tasting experiences (I know quite a few), others dig into new dishes without blinking an eye and just for the sake of curiosity.
I guess Luís fits into the latter category. The other day I was all excited with my first attempt at making kimchi and, to my surprise, he seemed to like it. He compared it to wasabi, which at first might sound odd, but thinking of it I realized those two foods share the same kind of fresh and invigorating spiciness.
Even though the instructions for this recipe (particularly the kimchi) seem to be long, this is a dish that is really easy to put together. The peanut satay calls for ingredients you probably have in the fridge already, and you can use tahini or almonds in the place of the peanuts if you feel like it. As far the as vegetables go, use what you have on hand, really: spring onions, raw turnips’ or carrots’ batons and assorted greens can definitely replace the ones I call for in here.
Now, onto the kimchi: I highly encourage you to make your own kimchi and start digging into the fermentation topic a bit – this is a wonderfully written book on that, by the way –, as it’s fascinating how the action of time imparts such a peculiar tangy sourness to vegetables. You might get addicted along the way and, if you’re like me, start fermenting everything in sight. At this moment, I have a jar filled with (almost soured) beets and another one with cabbage, which will soon turn into (hopefully) delicious sauerkraut.
Soba Noodle Bowl with Kimchi and Satay Sauce
(serves 2-3, as a main)
160 gr soba noodles
6 to 8 radishes, thinly sliced
3-4 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
200g pan fried tofu, cubed
plenty of green leaves (I used baby rocket)
1-2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
kimchi (recipe follows – as much or less as you want)
for the satay sauce
60 gr / 1/3 cup unsalted peanuts
80 ml / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut milk
juice of one medium-large lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon soy sauce
15 gr fresh ginger, finely grated
1 small coriander bunch / about 12 gr finely chopped
for the kimchi
1 kg / one very large chinese or napa cabbage, coarsely chopped
6 large garlic cloves
3-4 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely grated
3 red chilis, finely chopped
1 large leek, finely sliced
8 cups water
8 tablespoons sea salt
To make the satay sauce: in a pan over low-medium heat, toast the peanuts until they’re golden brown (3-4 minutes). In a mortar and pestle, mash the peanuts and the salt together. I like my satay fairly chunky, so I don’t mash the peanuts until they come to a paste – I leave some of them broken down for a bit of texture.
Transfer the peanut and salt mixture to a bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and whisk everything together until you get a creamy sauce. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed be.
In the meantime, bring a large pan with plenty of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the noodles and cook them for 6-7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
To make the kimchi: In a large non-reactive bowl, mix the water and the salt. Whisk for a minute or two or until the salt is dissolved. Add the cabbage to the bowl and make sure it’s covered by the salted water (brine). Let it sit in the fridge overnight.
The next day, drain the cabbage and reserve some of the brine (1 or 2 cups should be enough). If it’s too salty, wash the cabbage under cold water, rinse and drain again. If it’s not, simply drain it.
Mash the garlic cloves, ginger and chilli into a mortar and pestle. Rub this paste into the cabbage. Add the chopped leek to the mixture and pack everything together into a clean 1 liter jar. With your clean fingers, press the cabbage down into the jar so that it releases some of the brine. Make sure the cabbage is submerged in the brine (it should be 1 cm above the cabbage). If it’s not, add back some of the brine you previously reserved. Cover the kimchi with another jar, slightly smaller than the one you’re using, filled with water or beans to press the cabbage down. Check your kimchi every day and, with your clean fingers, press it down a little bit each time, always making sure it’s covered by the brine. After a week or so, it’s ready to be eaten and you can store it in the fridge, where it will continue to ferment but at a much slower pace.
To assemble: add to each bowl a fairly good amount of soba noodles, and top them with plenty of sauce (1-2 tablespoons per person or as much as you want). Add the raw vegetables (radishes, mushrooms and greens), the pan fried tofu and, finally, the kimchi (I add about 2 tablespoons per bowl).
The Kimchi recipe is lightly adapted from the book “Wild Fermentation” (2003), by Sandor Ellix Katz