The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.
If someone tells you they don’t like noodles, run. That person is a liar. Noodles are happiness incarnate, and these summer-ready sesame soba noodles are no exception. Featuring chilled Japanese noodles glossed in sesame oil and fresh lime juice, this soba noodle recipe delivers depth of flavor, fresh vegetable crunch, and something approximating noodle paradise.
Buckwheat soba noodles have a purplish cast and nutty flavor; you can find them dried at most grocery stores and any East Asian or Japanese specialty stores. But beware: Not all soba noodles are made from 100% buckwheat flour, a gluten-free product. Some varieties count wheat flour among their ingredients; as such, these aren’t gluten-free. (For instance, Juwari soba is made from 100% buckwheat flour, whereas Hachi Wari soba contains 80% buckwheat flour and 20% wheat flour.) The noodles containing wheat will be sturdier and are less prone to overcooking, but will also be somewhat less flavorful. Buy whatever appeals to you and move about your day.
The only cooking required in this no-recipe recipe is boiling the noodles for approximately 5 minutes, making it ideal for warm summer days when you can’t be convinced to turn on your oven. Once the noodles are cooked, you’ll drain and rinse them under cold running water to stop the cooking process and wash away excess starch; skip this step and they’ll solidify into a sticky buckwheat noodle Koosh ball.
When making sesame soba noodle salad, feel free to eyeball the mix-ins. Whatever you choose, it’ll turn out great. The dressing is flexible, too, so add in the ingredients you’ve got on hand: Maple syrup for sweetness, miso for umami, toasted sesame oil for, well, toastiness.
Since these noodles are easy to transport and require minimal prep time, they’re the perfect companion to all your summer adventures, like afternoons at the park, days at the beach, or road trips in a 2007 Honda Civic with a busted AC unit (been there). But they’re here for the less-than-glamorous everyday moments, too. Whip out a mason jar of these cold noodles at lunchtime and be the envy of the office, or count on them as a fallback weeknight dinner when you don’t want to do any big cooking.
How I make sesame soba noodles:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. For 2 servings, add about 6 oz. dried soba noodles (usually about 2 bundles of soba noodles from one 9-oz. package) and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes, or according to package instructions. This is where you’re completely sanctioned to taste-test as many noodles as you want. You do you.
Strain noodles and rinse with cold water to keep them from sticking, and transfer them to a medium-large bowl. Drizzle in about 1 Tbsp. sesame oil until the noodles are slicked with an oily sheen, a sign that they’re well-coated. Pop that bowl in the refrigerator and forget about it until the noodles have chilled.