G has been away a lot for work recently and so I’ve been experiencing spending large amounts of time cooking for one for pretty much the first time in my life. You see, G and I met very early at university and never lived more than about 5 minutes away from each other and I used to cook a lot for her (and others). Then G and I moved in together, got married and all the time I’m always cooking for two or more. Simple answer is cooking for one is kinda rubbish and so when G is back it’s really nice to put a bit more thought into what we’re eating – not just will it be nice, quick and easy to do after work but what does it remind me of. The upshot of that is I remembered a dish I hadn’t made since we were in second year of university. A dish that after I made it G asked me to make it again and again until I grew tired of it and forgot about it. A dish that is actually incredibly simple and quick and leaves wonderful leftovers for the next day – a dish so good that once I made it for G and we reminisced I ended up making it just for myself, over and over again because sometimes cooking for one isn’t rubbish, not when it tastes delicious, lasts for multiple days and makes you remember happy memories. So, I restarted an obsession with soba noodles and nori wrapped salmon.
When I first cooked soba noodles they were a complete disaster – which is a testament to how sometimes doing some research or reading the instructions is a good idea. I mean they couldn’t be simpler, simmer for 5 minutes and then rinse well in cold water but if you just decide you can cook them like pasta because they look like pasta and then serve them piping hot in whatever stir fry you feel like cooking right now it’s not going to go well. That’s actually what makes soba noodles such amazing leftover (or bulk cooking) food – they’re meant to be made cold! Even if you’re then going to heat them up again in soup or toss in a hot wok you still have to chill them first. The crucial step is the washing. After chilling them in an ice bath I rinse them several times in pots of water, churning the whole time to remove all the tackiness from them and stop them clumping together giving them a perfect al dente texture, crisp yet silky. I like my noodles half buckwheat, half wheat as I find the nuttiness of the buckwheat is delicious, but wholly buckwheat noodles have a great tendency to give off an almost slimy texture but I am reliably informed by others that I’m wrong and all buckwheat are the best – you be your own judge.
The next question is what should you add to your soba noodles? I find I often end up going for a classic combination of sesame oil, soya sauce, sesame seeds and spring onion with a dash of homemade spicy oil (any chilli oil would do but I love mine made from an abundance of Szechuan peppercorns and dried chillies). I find it’s best to let the natural nuttiness of the buckwheat soba noodles come through with just a hint of accent. However, sometimes I do like to add extra vegetables in the form of grated carrots, seared oyster mushrooms and grated mooli. Sometimes I like to change up the sauce and make a light soya sauce and honey vinaigrette with either mirin or rice vinegar. You can really play around but I’d start with something simple and pick up the seasoning because if you get that right and don’t overpower the beautiful soba noodles it will all be just fine.
Controversially, in my head the soba noodles are the star and they can be topped with almost anything (one of my favourites is deeply browned miso flavoured lamb mince). However, G disagrees. For her it has to be nori wrapped salmon or else it’s not the same. The technique is fairly simple, you can just roll them in the nori and be done with it. However, I find better results from opening the salmon fillets like a book (butterflying) and then re-rolling in the nori before slicing into pieces. Doing it this way not only allows you to roll more tightly but you can add your own seasoning to the inside of the salmon roll. I like a small amount of Korean chilli paste and salt but you can try fresh herbs or teriyaki sauce or ginger miso – it’s really up to you. Once they’re rolled and portioned a quick fry in a hot non-stick pan until the edges are golden and the inside is pink and you’re off to the races. Honestly I can’t recommend this one enough – you can even do all the work before hand and just cook the salmon last minute – hope you enjoy.
Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Nori Wrapped Salmon
- 400g dried buckwheat soba noodles (I like 50:50 buckwheat to wheat flour)
- Large bunch of spring onions – finely minced
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Chilli oil
- Black sesame seeds
- 500g salmon (skinless)
- 2 dried nori sheets
- Gochujang (this is my go to flavour but you can substitute most anything)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and simmer the soba noodles for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. They should have some bite remaining but have lost any farinaceous (floury) quality. Drain and immediately plunge into a pot of iced water. Agitate to ensure all the noodles cool and to wash off excess starch. Drain and replace water, repeating 4 or so times until the excess starch is removed.
- Dress the noodles with some sesame oil, chilli oil and soya sauce. I know people like to have exact measurements but I have found it hugely varies depending on the type of soba noodle you buy and so my best advice is to taste and adjust. Quite frequently I find that I’ve got enough of the soy flavour (I like it there but not prominent) but not enough salt and then I season directly with salt. Add the spring onions and black sesame seeds to the spring onions to the soba noodles and set aside. If you like add almost anything – roasted pickled mushrooms, grated daikon, carrot or coriander it’s really up to you.
- Butterfly the salmon. In order to do so you simply cut from the thinnest end to the thickest parallel to the table and stop just before you cut all the way through. Then open up like a book and if necessary repeat until it’s a uniform, relatively thin thickness.
- Season the salmon and spread a thin layer of gochujang all along it. Lay the salmon on top of nori (trimming to size so it covers the whole width) and roll the nori into a round. I find it best to cover around 50-60% of the length of the sheet depending on the thickness of the salmon. I normally get two sheets out of 500g of salmon. Cut each roll into 4 pieces.
- Add a thin layer of oil to a non stick pan and heat over medium heat. You want a gentle and not aggressive sizzle in the pan when you add the salmon. Cook until one side is golden before flipping and repeating (2-3 minutes per side). Remove and blot with kitchen paper. Serve on top of the soba noodles.
TimedEating Tips and Tricks for cooking Soba noodles with nori wrapped salmon ahead:
- The soba noodles keep very well in the fridge for 3-4 days. They don’t freeze very well.
- You can wrap the salmon up to a day in advance but I always prefer to cook fish the day I buy it.
- If you’re making for a dinner party or you want to do the cooking whilst the kids are out of the house then you can roll the salmon, cook and prepare the noodles and the actual cooking of the fish can be done last minute – will take less than 5 minutes to put dinner on the table!
- None of the components freeze very well but even the salmon is delicious cold as left-over lunch the next day.