Soba noodle bowls of rejuvenation

Here are things that are hard for me.  1) not eating pasta for every meal and 2) maintaining any semblance of a healthy lifestyle when traveling.  When I was packing for this trip I considered a lot of ideas about how I should work on these problems.  One idea was that maybe I should travel with a pound of brown rice in my suitcase so that I can always just eat brown rice with vegetables.

But then, I was like, wow that sounds terrible even to me, so how would I convince the people who I am yelling at through the internet that it is a good idea.  Obviously brown rice suitcase is a bad plan.  A better plan is exploring grocery stores here for foods that are potentially healthy.  A lot of the kitchen tools that I take for granted, i.e., like, one single knife that is at least sharp enough to cut a tomato, are not available to me in the apartment I’m staying in here in Berlin.  We do, however, have one of those sweet Mokka coffee makers that makes delicious espresso.  So all is right with the world.

Germany is a little more complicated than a lot of the places I've spent time traveling in because I can't even pretend that I speak the language (like I do in Italy) or lean on 4 years of classroom language training (like I do with Spanish.)  As a side note, it turns out four years of language training in a classroom turns out to be equal to about the language abilities of an intelligent toddler.

Soba noodles are basically whole wheat pasta except they are marketed differently and therefore don’t make me want to put my head through a wall.  (I am morally opposed to whole wheat pasta.  I can’t even talk to you about it.)  Real, fresh soba noodles are very different from pasta but the kind you buy at the grocery store in the “international foods” section are not quite as different. They make a great replacement for something like brown rice and can be used for a delicious dinner-bowl that is filling and satisfying and all-around healthy.  And the fried tofu is FINE because this bowl is VEGAN!

soba noodle bowls

serves 3-4

  • 16 oz firm tofu
  • 1 medium english cucumber
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cups mushrooms, sliced (I used white, but if you're feeling fancy and/or expensive shiitakes are delicious and ideal)
  • 3 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 red pepper, with seeds and stem removed
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • canola oil
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds

Remove your tofu from the packaging and pat dry with paper towels.  Use a plate with a book on top of it to press down on the tofu.  This releases the water and allows it to get crispy.  Set aside.

Slice your cucumber as this as possible and place in a bowl with sugar and rice vinegar.  Stir to coat cucumbers in vinegar mixture.  If your cucumber was on the large side and the liquid doesn't cover them, add a little water or more rice vinegar.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add broccoli to dry pan, tossing occasionally.  The pan will smoke.  That's what we want.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until broccoli is mostly blackened and slightly tender, 7-10 minutes.  Set aside.

Lower heat to medium and add 1 tbsp sesame oil, and 1 tbsp each of garlic and ginger and cook for a minute until starting to turn brown golden.  Add mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are tender and cooked through.  Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package instructions, drizzling a little sesame oil on them to avoid sticking.

While noodles are cooking, combine red pepper, the rest of the ginger and garlic, miso, and sesame oil in a food processor, pulsing until combined into a chunky salsa-like mixture. Toss 1 cup of the red pepper sauce with the warm noodles.

Wipe out pan and add about 1/4 inch of neutral oil (canola or whatever you prefer)  Heat to medium/high heat.  While the oil is heating, cut tofu into 1/4 inch thick slices and toss with 1 cup of flour to coat.  Fry in oil about 3 minutes on each side until crispy.

To assemble the bowl, divide noodles among bowls evenly.  Top with each ingredient, spooning the red pepper sauce over the broccoli.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Look, it's vegan.  That's some balance.