This Asian noodle salad is a bit of fusion – Japanese buckwheat noodles tossed with ingredients inspired by Pad Thai.
Soba noodles are great in a salad – firm to the bite and providing a lovely earthy balance to the fresh vegetables, chewy tofu, crunchy peanuts and deliciously sweet and tangy sauce.
Some notes on tamarind paste: There are several different kinds that have wildly different strengths and textures. I used to buy one that is quite liquid, in a bottle. If you use one like that, you won’t need any water to thin the sauce but you may need to add more paste because it has a milder flavour. Recently, though, I found a tamarind paste that is just that – squashed tamarinds. It’s a block which is quite solid. If you use one like this, you will probably need to add a little water to thin the sauce and you’ll get more flavour to your spoonful of paste. If you get a jar or tub that is somewhere between these extremes, just use your judgment. Note, also, that if you use block paste, you may need to use a blender to mix the sauce.
Serves 4 – 8 (main or side)
Preparation: about 30 minutes
Chilling: about 1 hour
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp – 1 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce (to taste)
1 – 2 Tbsp tamarind paste (to taste)
3 – 4 Tbsp sugar (to taste)
Juice of 1 lime
400g (14 oz) firm tofu
2 Tbsp peanut oil
250g (9 oz) soba noodles
2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1 large red bell pepper (capsicum), julienned
15cm (6″) piece English (garden) cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
250g (about 1/2 lb) mung bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup roasted peanuts for garnish
Using the smaller quantity given for each ingredient to start with, combine ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of water if required (depending on thickness the tamarind paste). Adjust the ingredient ratios to suit your own tastes, depending on whether you like it sweeter or tangier. Set aside.
Press tofu dry between sheets of paper towel then cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet and fry the tofu until crisp and brown, a few minutes on each side – do this in batches if necessary. Remove from heat and spread on paper towel to drain and cool a little. They will become chewy as they cool.
Boil the noodles as per the directions on the packet – they are better to be a little undercooked. When done, drain, rinse with cold water, drain again well and toss in a large bowl with the sauce.
Combine the noodles, tofu and vegetables and refrigerate until well chilled.
Sprinkle with peanuts before serving.