Tag: Asian food
They are traditional Japanese noodles made from buckwheat. But are soba noodles gluten free and what are they actually made from?
With their robust flavour, soba noodles are perfect with aromatic Asian sauces but are they good for your health? Let’s find out.
What are soba noodles?
Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat. Soba noodles have been around in Japan since the 17th century, when the aristocracy discovered they had health benefits over white rice and could cure beriberi. Thiamine was not identified until 1897, but we know now that the thiamine content of buckwheat was likely responsible for this. Soba making was a specialist art, confined to those who could afford it, and served in eating houses.
Nowadays everyone eats soba noodles and they are the traditional noodle of Tokyo. Available throughout the world as dried noodles, in Japan or Japanese restaurants they may be fresh and handmade.
Soba noodles are a long thin spaghetti like noodle with a beige brown colour and a slippery texture when cooked. It is considered correct to slurp your noodles as it enhances the flavour as well as cools them down. The flavour is nutty with a pleasing sourness like sourdough bread.
What are soba noodles made from?
Although soba noodles are made with buckwheat, they often contain wheat flour too. The usual percentage is 80% buckwheat to 20% wheat flour. Buckwheat noodles can be fragile and bitter so wheat flour is added to create a better texture. Some soba noodles may contain very little actual buckwheat so it is always best to read the label. They should contain nothing else other than flour and water.
Are soba noodles gluten free?
Because of the added wheat, not all soba noodles are gluten free. The most traditional variety of soba noodle, called juwari soba, are made from 100% buckwheat and are therefore gluten free. The texture is different to standard soba noodles. They are slightly grainy and very fragile, and are also more expensive.
If you tolerate gluten, go for a variety that contain the 80/20 ratio as the texture really is preferable.
Are soba noodles wholegrain?
Buckwheat is not strictly a wholegrain as it is a pseudo-grain not a cereal grain. Nutritionally speaking though, buckwheat is classed as a wholegrain and has all the benefits that go with it.
Are soba noodles healthier than pasta?
In comparison to wholegrain pasta, soba noodles are pretty similar. But who eats wholegrain pasta, right? Compared to dried pasta, made with refined white flour and no egg, soba noodles are certainly the healthy choice. With a lower GI, buckwheat can help to improve blood sugar control. It is also a good source of manganese and Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Full of fibre and also resistant starch, soba noodles can aid digestive health. Easily digestible, they provide a small amount of high quality protein that is rich in the amino acid lysine.
How to cook soba noodles
Cooking times for soba noodles will vary, as the thickness varies. So always follow the manufacturers instructions. Dropped in lightly salted boiling water they take about 3 to 5 minutes. Give them plenty of space and move them around often. Drain and serve hot, or run under cold water until cooled and serve cold.
Soba noodles are great with many of our Asian sauces, and are also particularly good served in broth.
For a great noodle dish, hot or cold, toss noodles in our Japanese dressing and scatter with finely chopped spring onions.
Soy sauce is salty, sweet, and savoury. With a note of bitterness and a touch of sour it activates all of our taste buds to create a balanced range of sensations.
Used in place of salt, it brings all of these other elements into play. Use to enhance flavours and create a sense of depth. Embrace the unique and complex full-bodied flavour. Start simple, switching it out with salt, and then get creative.
See where the magic of soy sauce will take you.
All about soy sauce
Thousands of years ago, in Ancient China, they used to make a fermented soy bean paste similar to the miso we know today. At some point it was discovered that the liquid from this could be used too, and soy sauce was born. Use spread across the East, where regional variations were developed, and eventually spread to the West. It is now one of the most widely used condiments in the world. But are we getting the most from our soy sauce? Do we liberally splash it on anything we regard as Asian and think no more about it?
In the East, they take soy sauce very seriously indeed. Hundreds of variations exist, each as subtly different as fine wine or olive oil. Only a handful of traditional producers are left, creating complex soy sauce that takes years to perfect. A simple preparation of soy beans, wheat, salt and water, fermented with a starter of micro-organisms, it is time and nature that result in the astonishing depth of flavour in soy sauce.
In Japan and China they both categorise soy sauce as light or dark. Light soy sauce is thinner and saltier, whilst dark soy sauce is thick, rich and sweet. Standard soy sauce is somewhere in between. Japanese soy sauce is lighter and less salty in general.
A brief lesson in flavour
Soy sauce delivers the full range of taste sensations. In technical terms taste is the broad physical sensations of salt, sweet, umami, bitter and sour. Flavour is all of the aromas that add the detailed nuances.
Used to draw out and enhance complex flavours, soy sauce is a masterclass in seasoning by itself. Not only does it trigger all of the taste sensations, but has a complex flavour profile of its own. The aim of all carefully considered dishes is to balance the tastes and enhance the flavours of the ingredients.
Soy sauce is salty, sweet, savoury, bitter, and sour, in varying degrees. Saltiness magnifies flavour, working in tandem with umami that makes the mouth water and makes food feel fuller, richer and more satisfying. Sourness brightens the palate, clarifying and defining flavours, whilst sweetness rounds everything out. Bitter flavours add a little interest. A sense of intrigue. Together, they create balance. A satisfying sense of completeness.
10 things you can do with soy sauce
Make a marinade
Marinade chicken, fish, vegetables or tofu. Anything you like really. Keep it Asian inspired with aromatics such as garlic and ginger, or just use the soy sauce in place of salt.
Mix a dressing
Mix up a dressing for salad or roasted vegetables. Try 3 parts oil, 2 parts low sodium soy sauce, to 1 part vinegar.
Reduce a glaze
Mix 200ml soy sauce, with 100ml red wine, and 1 tbsp honey. Place in a small saucepan over a medium heat and simmer to reduce by half.
Add to desserts
Use instead of salt in a salted caramel sauce, or add an extra dimension to your chocolate brownies. Try adding a dash of sauce sauce to your affogato.
Enhance poaching liquid
Add a quarter cup to your poaching liquid for depth of flavour.
Mix soy with rice vinegar and sugar to create a simple pickling liquid for cucumber, carrot, onion or even hard boiled eggs.
Deepen your braise
Add to your beef stew or braised short ribs for deep meaty flavour. A tiny piece of star anise won’t be detected but will bring out even more meaty flavour.
Super savoury your sauce
Add a tablespoon to your homemade tomato sauce for sweetness and savoury depth
Brush onto ingredients
Brush onto simple grilled meats or vegetables, yakitori style.
Give guts to your gravy
Add a splash to your gravy for rich body and colour.
This Article was reproduced with permission from an Opera Foods article:- “Why soy sauce just might be the greatest seasoning. Ever.”
Asian greens are quick and easy to cook, super good for you, and take on all those vibrant, Asian flavours really well.
If you feel like some light and healthy food that still packs a punch in the flavour department, then getting to grips with Asian greens is a good place to start. From soft and tender bok choy in fragrant noodle soup, to the garlic tones of Chinese chives in your chicken dishes, you are sure to discover your new favourite thing.
Top 5 Asian greens
There are many different types of Asian greens available at Asian grocers, but the ones below are the most widely accessible and some may be found at the supermarket or greengrocer. Whilst they are largely related and play very similar roles, each is unique and brings a different dimension to your dish.
Also known as pak choi, bok choy is a member of the brassica family, related to broccoli and cabbage. It has the iron rich green flavour of spinach or kale and is sold when small, young and tender as well as larger, mature, and more fibrous. The smaller bok choy can be cut into halves or quarters before cooking. When bigger, the stem is best cooked separately from the leaf. Not typically eaten raw, bok choy is best for stir frying or braising.
Add halved bok choy to fragrant noodle broth for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender
Chinese broccoli is very similar to the long stemmed varieties of broccoli such as purple sprouting or Tenderstem. Drop into boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes until a knife inserted into the stem has just a little resistance. You could then simply dress it and serve, or stir fry for a minute with some garlic and ginger.
Blanch in salted water for 3 minutes and stir fry with a few tablespoons of our organic black pepper sauce for a fragrant, spicy side dish.
Somewhere between a lettuce and a cabbage, Chinese leaf is also a member of the brassica family. Used both cooked and raw, it has a sweet nutty flavour and remains surprisingly crisp when cooked. Blanched in stock before stir frying, Chinese leaf soaks up all the flavour of the stock but without going soggy.
Use as a crunchy fresh base for this Thai Beef Salad.
Choi sum is somewhere between bok choy and Chinese broccoli. It has the soft leaves of bok choy, with long tender stems. The flavour is mild and the texture like spinach. Eaten cooked, it can chopped and stir fried. or added to broth for a few minutes before serving.
Stir fry with strips of fresh ginger and season with a splash of Japanese soy sauce.
Related to choi sum, mustard greens are shaped like a romaine lettuce but has frilly edges like kale. You can use mustard greens pretty much like kale. Slice or shred and drop into fragrant soup, or blanch in boiling water for a few minutes before stir frying.
Blanch or stir fry until tender and drizzle with dressing made from 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp rice vinegar, and 1 tsp sugar. You could add a dash of chili sauce to turn up the heat.
Some useful additions to Asian greens
Whilst not really greens, these green vegetables can add colour, texture and flavour to your Asian food and offer more ways of bringing a bit of green to your plate.
Found in Asian grocery stores, these are long green beans. Similar to french beans (aka green beans), they can be cooked in the same way. Drop into a pan of boiling salted water and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Serve simply tossed in soy sauce, or stir fry with aromatics such as ginger or chili. Conversely, if you find snake beans in a recipe, you can switch them out for green beans.
Sugar snap peas and mangetout
Essentially varieties of peas that are eaten with the pod, sugar snap peas and mangetout are great for stir fries as they cook so quickly whilst retaining their crunch. They have a lovely sweet flavour, with a slightly bitter edge of green.
Chinese chives and spring onions
Chinese chives are more robust than your average chive, and have a strong flavour of garlic and leek. Used as an ingredient rather than a herb, they will stand up to heat and can be blanched for a few minutes before adding to a stir fry. Often served alone simply as a vegetable, but also tossed liberally into scrambled eggs. You could add Chinese chives as a milder alternative to garlic.
There are a few things that define a great Singapore noodle recipe. One is curry paste or powder. That’s the kicker. Then there is the addition of eggs. More of a scrambled scenario than a sliced omelette.
And then there is the question of leftovers. Yes, Singapore noodles are great for throwing the contents of your fridge at, but there are a few ground rules. The meat should really be pork. And preferably a bit sweet/salty. And there should be prawns. So you have that pork and prawn combo thing going on.
How to make Singapore noodles
Versions of Singapore noodle recipes abound. Strictly speaking it is more of way of using up your leftovers than a strict recipe, so perhaps the best way forwards is to get the detail right. Stir frying is all about fast cooking over a high high heat. That somehow manages to result in deep deep flavour, whilst keeping the integral personality of the ingredients intact. In terms of taste and texture.
It is very very clever and completely underestimated.
Essentially, Singapore noodles are made of the following components…
Usually made with rice noodles, but they can be (especially the fine ones) really hard to toss with the other ingredients and end up in a tangle. Use whichever noodles you prefer – cook and cool them before stir frying.
Use whatever you have to hand. Spring onion is good for flavour, and Asian vegetables such as bamboo or water chestnuts add great crunch. Add those that need the longest cooking time first.
Again, use whatever you like or need to use up. The prawn/pork combo works particularly well, especially leftover sticky pork belly.
Curry powder gives the classic Singapore noodle taste. Ginger, garlic and chili round it out with fresh aromatic heat.
Soy sauce added at the end brings the requisite salty element whilst coconut milk makes it a little creamier. Using the creamy part of tinned coconut milk makes for a thicker sauce that won’t overcook the noodles.
Keeping it old school with fresh coriander and a few slices of fresh red chili. Add an extra flourish with handful of peanuts or sesame seeds.
Singapore noodle recipe
Gather all of your ingredients together before cooking
- Serves 4
The noodles 225g noodles, cooked as per packet instructions, and cooled The vegetables 4 mushrooms, sliced 4 spring onions, sliced 100g frozen peas 6 water chestnuts, sliced 1/2 cup bamboo shoots The protein 100g cooked ham or leftover pork, shredded 100g cooked prawns 4 eggs, beaten The seasonings 1 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tbsp sesame oil 1 tsp ground white pepper 1 tbsp Madras curry powder 2 cloves garlic, chopped 1 inch ginger, grated 1 tsp red chili paste The sauce 1 tbsp coconut cream 2 tbsp soy sauce The garnish Fresh coriander, chopped Red chili, finely sliced
Heat the wok until smoking and add the oils.
Add the mushrooms and spring onions. Stir fry for 1 minute.
Add the rest of the veg and the meat.
Add the seasonings and stir fry for 1 minute.
Push the ingredients to the side of the wok, and pour the beaten egg into the space. Stir the eggs until cooked.
Add the noodles to the wok and stir everything to combine.
Add the sauce ingredients. Stir to combine.
Serve and garnish.
Full of the punchy flavours that characterise Thai food, this vibrant Thai beef salad recipe can be made in under 30 minutes. The steaks are quick and easy to cook and although there is a bit of vegetable prep to do the dish is more about assembly rather than preparation.
For best results use the freshest produce available and bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
Recipe for Thai beef salad
2 x sirloin steaks of about 250g each 2 tsp sesame oil 1 tsp flaked sea salt 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp ground coriander For the salad 1/4 head Chinese leaf, shredded 1 cup beansprouts 1 carrot, shredded 8 radishes, sliced 1/2 shallot, finely sliced 4 spring onions, sliced 1/2 cucumber, peeled and shaved into ribbons 1 small bunch mint, chopped For the dressing 1 garlic clove, chopped 1 teaspoon chili paste 2 tsp brown sugar 3 tbsp fish sauce 3 limes, juice 1 tbsp sesame oil To garnish 75g salted peanuts, chopped 1/2 red chilli, finely sliced coriander leaves
1. Take the steaks from the fridge, remove any packaging, and pat dry with kitchen paper.
2. Rub the steaks with the oil and seasonings. Set aside to come up to room temperature whilst you make the salad.
3. Begin to layer your salad ingredients on a large platter.
4. Note the size and shape of the carrots. It takes a little more effort to julienne them rather than grate them, but the texture will make a big difference to the eating quality of your salad.
5. Finish the salad layers with the chopped mint.
6. Heat a grill pan or frying pan over a medium high heat. When really hot, add the steaks seasoning side down and sear for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
7. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside to rest for a few minutes whilst you make the dressing.
8. Stir all of the dressing ingredients together.
9. Thinly slice the steaks.
10. Layer the sliced steaks onto the salad.
11. Finish with the dressing and a scatter of peanuts.
12. Serve the Thai beef salad whilst the steak is still hot.