We've partnered with Kroger to highlight one of our favorite warming dishes: a Japanese-inspired, hot soba noodle soup. The grocer's new HemisFares™ line imports authentic global ingredients so you can eat the world, wherever you are.
Come every new year, we’re bombarded with entreaties to GET FIT, GET HEALTHY, or, now that we’re in the midst of an "it’s-not-dieting" wellness moment, the peppy pleas are EAT TO FEEL GOOD. The dead-of-winter timing for flipping the switch on plant-based eating always struck me as a little bizarre. Who on god’s green earth wants to eat a raw salad when it’s 7°F outside and the walk to work feels like a reenactment of The Revenant? Why can’t we start all this healthy talk in the summer when there are more than three root vegetables in the farmer’s market?
There’s no harder time to enact an eating-well initiative than at lunch in the office when time is short and temptation is high (yes, the struggle is real). On more than one occasion, I’ve brought all the same salad fixings that satisfy in more temperate climes and ended up ordering a chicken parm instead. When the days are short, the nights are long, and a glance at your weather app is straight-up depressing, the key to staying the course is in comforting foods that warm you up. That’s why I love an assemble-at-work hot soba noodle soup.
The beauty of soba noodle soup is that all you have to cook are the soba noodles and a strongly flavored broth. Then you can top it with almost anything you like. I like to make a big batch of dashi, the Japanese broth made by simmering just two ingredients: the thick seaweed kombu and then bonito flakes. I freeze some of it for miso soup, and then flavor the rest in the traditional style for noodle soups, aka kakejiru, with soy sauce and mirin, plus a little salt and sugar.
You can stretch two meals out of the noodles and broth, eating them topped with roasted chicken thighs, scallions, and shichimi togarshi for one dinner, and then using the leftover noodles and broth for lunch the next day. For a quick workweek lunch, I like to add flaked hot-smoked salmon, which you can pick up in the refrigerated seafood section of most grocery stores, plus a bunch of refreshing vegetables: grated daikon, peppery watercress, thinly sliced cucumber, and a showering of sharp scallion.
Soba noodles have more fiber and protein than pasta, so they won’t spike your blood sugar. They also have vitamins, like manganese, iron, and thiamine. In Japan, it’s traditional to keep the soba cooking water, imbued with those vitamins, hot and pour some into the bowl of leftover broth after you’ve finished eating the noodles. Toss in omega-3-rich salmon and an assortment of vegetables and you’ve got a filling, nutrient-rich meal that won’t leave you feeling comatose.
For lunch, the trick is in the packing. The broth goes in one container. In another container, I stack the toppings first and then the vegetables, and store it upside down. When I open it at work, the noodles drop into the bowl first with the other ingredients on top of them. I microwave the broth and pour it on the noodles, to make a savory, steaming-hot soup covered in pretty greens and whites. You can top it all off with fluttering bonito flakes or a little kick in the form of shichimi togarashi. Lunch is served. And I’m not even thinking about ordering a chicken parm.
Hot Soba Noodle Soup with Salmon, Cucumber, and Togarashi
For the soup:
- 2 quarts dashi (see recipe below)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 4-6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hon mirin (preferably one made with real sake, like Takara)
- 1 pound dried soba noodles
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias, whites and light greens only
- 1 bunch watercress, trimmed
- 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons grated daikon
- 3 (4 oz) packages of smoked salmon chunks, broken into bite-sized pieces
- shichimi togarashi to garnish
- bonito flakes to garnish (optional)
For the dashi:
- 2 quarts cold water, plus up to 3/4 cup
- 2 ounces (approximately 9"X 8" piece) konbu
- 2 ounces bonito flakes
We've created the perfect work lunch with help from our partner, Kroger. With its new line HemisFares™, the celebrated grocer is importing regional specialties from Jamaica, Japan, Spain, Italy, and Japan — including ingredients like the soba noodles and sichimi togarashi you see here.