Umami Cold Noodles

By • August 9, 2012 10 Comments

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Author Notes: Pasta salads can be considered comfort foods. This one may knock you a bit out of the comfort zone, into the Umami Zone. The flavors are so appealing that you may already have found a new level of comfort there.

My favorite Japanese-style cold noodles are made with soba and udon, but curly noodles hold their sauce better and are easier to eat. This one looks best on day one, but the flavors benefit from a night in the fridge.
susan g

Food52 Review: After hunting down the proper ingredients (finding mushroom soy sauce in a suburb is harder than I thought) I actually really liked how the dish came together. There were lots of light acid notes, deep hits of umami from the mushrooms and the texture of the tofu was a nice addition. I made this for my family for dinner and even my very picky girlfriend loved it. As per the author’s notes, I have saved some aside to see how they change overnight, but I am already impressed with the overall composition of the dish. I do wish the recipe method was a bit clearer, it gives great detail to the preparation of the broccoli, but I’m not really sure if anything is supposed to be sautéed, or are the shallots and mushrooms supposed to be raw? (I’m not a big fan of the acrid bite from raw onion/shallots so I decided to sauté mine (it didn’t say not to?). Also I felt the mushrooms could benefit from being roasted, I personally like the extra bit of depth that comes from even a quick go under the broiler. I would also re-evaluate the level of sesame oil, I know it doesn’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of the recipe, but it does come through quite a bit and maybe even bump up the level of chili sauce by just a bit just to help cut through the heaviness of the oil and to balance the salt and vinegar in the soy sauce. The method could use a bit of a re-write to be friendlier to the less skilled or beginner, but it’s pretty easy for the average home cook to fill in the gaps as far as properly combining everything for the sauce. Overall I did like the dish, but based on some of the other reviews I’m seeing here, it doesn’t seem to be on quite on the same level. I would recommend it for a community pick.The Editors

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower oil, or another neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese mushroom soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce (see note)
  • 4 ounces broccoli
  • 4 ounces mushrooms (I use shiitake)
  • 2 ounces shallots
  • 4 ounces curly pasta, like fusilli or radiatore
  • 4 ounces firm tofu
  1. First, make a sauce: combine the oils, soy sauce, black vinegar, and chili-garlic sauce together in a small bowl.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut the broccoli into small florets. Peel the tender part of the stem and cut into thin, diagonal slices. Add stems to the boiling water, then add the florets once the water returns to a boil. Blanch only until they are bright green, drain, then run under cold water. Cut the mushrooms in wedges, no bigger than the florets (if you use shiitakes, use the caps only). Thinly slice the shallots, breaking up large heads first. Add the prepared vegetables to the sauce.
  3. Cook the pasta until just al dente, then run under cold water until cooled. Stir into the bowl with vegetables.
  4. Chill until ready to serve. Cut tofu into small cubes, mix into the bowl, and serve.
  5. NOTES: The chili-garlic sauce I use is Huy Fong ("Rooster"). For other brands, or dry crushed chilis, adjust to your taste. For a gluten-free version, I use Ancient Harvest Garden Pagodas (quinoa-corn pasta) and gluten-free soy sauce.

More Great Recipes: Vegetables|Salads|Beans & Legumes|Pasta|Broccoli

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Comments (10) Questions (0)

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6 months ago susan g

I appreciate the positive review! To answer some of your questions: Feel free to modify - I have fiddled with this to suit my taste, I reinvent other people's recipes with a free hand, so I would expect you to so likewise; I do not cook the mushrooms or the shallots, but I'd like to try it - you make a good argument for doing that; the quantity of chili-garlic sauce and sesame oil could be more or less, as you like. Also, I'm likely to use other vegetables when something good is on hand. I see the kitchen as an arena for play.

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over 1 year ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I remember these! They are absolutely divine. I could eat a bathtub full of them. Hard to take a bathtub on a picnic, but I imagine you get my drift.

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about 2 years ago loubaby

Now I can use more of my black vinegar and mushroom soy sauce...I get stuck in the rut with regular vinegars and soy. Thanks

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about 2 years ago healthierkitchen

Susan, this sounds great! Sorry I missed it till now.

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over 2 years ago Kukla

Congratulations susan on the CP! I love Asian flavors and this sounds really Umami.

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over 2 years ago LE BEC FIN

nice one, susan! I am def making this.( one suggestion from an admiring sister- try Maruhon sesame oil- soooo much better than kadoya!) Black vinegar is such a great ingredient that I keep forgetting about. I bet you love black garlic too, eh? It's not so easy to find here on the East Coast but it is so interesting!
Thx again for the inspiration, and congrats on the CP.

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about 3 years ago PistachioDoughnut

delicious susan..I love cold noodles esp for music concert nights, picnics..

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about 3 years ago EmilyC

This sounds really good...love Asian noodles and your version sounds light and flavorful.

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about 3 years ago healthierkitchen

sounds delicious! I have the mushroom soy sauce so it's nice to find more uses!

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about 3 years ago inpatskitchen

This sounds really, really good! I love pasta salads and this is certainly a wonderful Asian twist. Saved!