Spicy Soba Noodles with Wilted Watercress

Sang An
Soba noodles, hearty and flavorful Japanese noodles made from either buckwheat only or buckwheat and wheat flour, pair perfectly with peppery watercress and a spicy dressing. This hassle-free side dish could not be easier, requiring no cutting at all. The watercress does not need cooking; it just needs a quick wilt, so tossing it in the hot pan with the freshly cooked noodles and sauce will do the trick. Look for the soba noodles, chile-garlic sauce (a mixture of chile, garlic, and vinegar), and toasted sesame oil in the Asian foods section of your grocery store. If you find watercress, a large bunch should be enough. If only upland cress is available, grab a couple small bunches. 
 
  • 8 ounces dried soba noodles
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 6 cups stemmed watercress or upland cress
  • 1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook for about 8 minutes, or according to package directions, until done. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, in a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, chile-garlic sauce, and sesame oil.

Drain the noodles in a colander set in the sink. Put the watercress in the hot pan. (If you are using 100 percent buckwheat soba, the noodles may be excessively starchy. Give them a quick rinse with hot tap water.) Return the noodles to the pan along with the canola oil. Using tongs, toss to combine. The watercress should wilt from the residual heat of the pan and the noodles. Add the sauce and toss until well incorporated. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variation: Substitute 6 cups arugula for the cress. Most soba noodles are made from a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour. If you are following a gluten-free diet, you'll need to seek out 100 percent buckwheat soba. Eden and Mitoku are two good brands. You'll also need to use wheat-free tamari or soy sauce.

Reprinted with permission from Brassicas by Laura B. Russell (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). 

Yield: 
Serves 4

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