Japanese

Hot Soba, Your Feel-Good Answer to Cold Weather Comfort Food

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February 11, 2018

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.

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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.

After you make the broth and soba noodles, top with whatever you like. Photo by Rocky Luten

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.

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.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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2 Comments

cookinginvictoria February 13, 2018
This looks great for a cold weather weekday dinner as well when time is short since all components can be prepped ahead. Looking forward to trying this!
 
AntoniaJames February 13, 2018
Such a great idea. Love this. Since moving my law practice here to the East Bay, I've been able to prepare lunch in my own kitchen most days. Increasingly, however, I have back-to-backs with just a brief break mid-day. Prepping this as if I were toting the components into town to work, I'll be able to enjoy it on days when time is short. Thank you so much, Mari. ;o)