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Cold Soba With Perilla Oil Dressing

September 23, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
Author Notes

Perilla oil noodles are the latest viral food trend to emerge from Korea, after folded kimbap (the cousin of the TikTok sensation, folded tortilla quesadilla) and ram-don jjapaguri noodles from the cult movie hit, Parasite.

But first, what is perilla oil? Perilla oil (deulgireum in Korean) is the oil derived from toasted perilla seeds. You might recognize perilla leaves (kkaennip in Korean), sold in stacks or prepared as marinated banchan side dishes at Korean markets or restaurants. They look like a larger variety of Japanese shiso leaves; both come from the mint family, but perilla leaves are a bit milder in flavor. Unlike perilla leaves, toasted perilla oil is not at all minty, but nutty in aroma and flavor. It has its own unique profile and is different from toasted sesame oil, though both oils look similar to one another and are both commonly used in Korean cuisine. You can easily find perilla oil for less than $10/bottle online or at your local Korean market, like H Mart. As perilla oil has its own singular taste, I would not recommend a substitute for it.

Back to the noodles. The perilla oil noodles you can find on social media often use soba buckwheat noodles or thin wheat somyeon or somen noodles. They're cooked, drained, and thoroughly rinsed in cold water before being mixed with a simple sauce whose base is composed primarily of perilla oil and soy sauce. My version adds some sugar and a touch of rice vinegar for sweetness and balance, respectively. The dressed noodles are topped with coarsely ground toasted sesame seeds and crushed dried seaweed (the unseasoned type), known as gim in Korean or nori in Japanese. I add a simple garnish of julienned cucumber for a cool crunch and added freshness on hot days; for more heft, I like to add shredded poached chicken.

This recipe is the perfect example of a quick pantry meal. It's almost too easy to make! The key to delicious noodles is taking care not to overcook them. My personal tip is to cook your soba noodles for just 4 minutes, no matter what your package recommends. This is my golden rule of soba-cooking and I have yet to fail in producing chewy, delicious results. —Hana Asbrink

Test Kitchen Notes

Weeknight Wonders is a column by Hana Asbrink, our Resident Dinner Wrangler. —The Editors

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Cold Soba With Perilla Oil Dressing
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 2
Ingredients
  • 2 dried soba noodle bundles (each bundle is 90 to 100 grams or 3 to 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons perilla oil
  • 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 sheet roasted dried seaweed (Korean gim or Japanese nori), unseasoned
  • Julienned cucumber (optional garnish)
  • Shredded cooked chicken (optional garnish)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Bring a medium pot filled with water to boil for the soba.
  2. Make the sauce: In a large mixing bowl, combine perilla oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. Stir sauce until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  3. Prepare garnishes: In a mortar and pestle, grind the sesame seeds well, leaving some coarse. Tear the dried seaweed finely and set aside (alternately, put the sheet of gim in a plastic produce bag or zip-top bag and crush with your hand until fine).
  4. Cook soba noodles for 4 minutes exactly (yes, even if your package suggests otherwise!). Prepare a colander and bowl in the sink. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer noodles to the bowl and fill with cold water, rubbing and rinsing off excess starch. Repeat 3 to 4 times until water runs relatively clear. Thoroughly drain noodles of any excess water in the colander.
  5. Add the noodles to the mixing bowl with sauce. Toss until thoroughly combined.
  6. To plate, divide dressed noodles between two bowls (no dressing left behind!) and top with crushed sesame seeds and dried seaweed. Add optional garnishes of julienned cucumbers and shredded chicken, if using. Serve immediately.

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