March 12th, 2012

{recipe} Quick Soba Noodle Salad with Coconutty Bok Choy

Soba Noodle Salad with Coconutty Bok Choy
This quick dinner has become a weekly standby. The Hungry Boys, big and little, love soba noodles. We’re all obsessed with the tangy dressing. Bok choy is super healthy and, for the green veggie averse among us, also super mild. And I get to cook with a new favorite ingredient, coconut oil.

Oh, wait. There’s more: this one-bowl meal can come together in 20 minutes.

What’s that? You want this to be a weekly standby in your house, too?! No problem. Here’s the deal…

I started cooking dark, leafy greens in coconut oil about 6 months ago. It’s been a revelation for which I have Melissa Clark to thank. I was familiar with the tropical oil—which, perhaps confusing, comes solid—from experimenting with gluten free baking and making homemade magic shell, but I hadn’t considered uses beyond that. Also, somewhere in the back on my head, I was holding onto to the misconception that coconut oil was highly unhealthy. As it turns out, coconut oil is not horrible for you and is good for cooking more than just sweet treats.

Coconut oil has a lovely sweetness that balances dark bitter greens and gifts a subtle coconut flavor. Refined coconut oil will give just the slightest hint of flavor, while unrefined will pass along a delicate, but true coconut essence. I could barely detect the coconut flavor in this soba salad until I got a bite of noodles particularly tangled with bok choy. Then, for just a moment, it was there: a nutty sweetness that gave this tangy dish a luscious, unexpected warmth.

Bok Choy and Tofu

I add crisped tofu to this soba dish, but you don’t have to. If you do, it’ll take an extra 45 minutes of unattended roasting time. (I roast the tofu while making breakfast and packing lunch in the morning and, once it has cooled, leave it covered on the counter all day.) You can also add more veggies to this dish in a snap—raw, julienned peppers, carrots and cukes are a prefect garnish.

Quick Soba Noodle Salad with Coconutty Boy Choy
dressing recipe by Julie Van Rosendaal from Peko Peko: Family Friendly Japanese Recipes
(can be shared with kids 8+ months)*
serves 4

1 14-ounce block of extra firm tofu, optional
Canola oil spray, optional
1 10-ounce package of dried soba noodles
2 tablespoons coconut oil (I prefer unrefined for this recipe)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs baby bok choy (you can substitute bok choy), cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey (substitute brown sugar if sharing with kids under 1-year-old)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 a large lemon
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
A squirt of Sriracha or other chili sauce, to taste

1. If using tofu, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the block of tofu laterally into thirds, and then into bite size pieces. Pat pieces dry and spray both sides with oil before placing them on a baking sheet. Bake tofus in the oven until pieces crisp up and turn golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Set aside. If crisping the tofu ahead of time, allow to cool completely before putting pieces in a bowl, covering with aluminum foil and leaving on the counter for up to 10 hours.

3. In the meantime, cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Once drained, set aside in a large mixing bowl.

4. While noodles are cooking, sauté bok choy: add coconut oil and garlic to a wide sauté pan or wok set over medium-high heat. Once garlic just begins to turn golden brown around the edges, add chopped bok choy. Toss to coat well and sauté until wilted and bright green, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and, using tongs, remove bok choy from pan, leaving any cooking liquid behind. Place bok choy in a small bowl and set aside.

5. Make dressing: combine all remaining ingredients in a jar, seal and shake.

6. Using tongs, transfer bok choy to the large bowl with the soba noodles, leaving behind any additional liquid that has accumulated. Add tofu and dressing. Toss to coat. Serve warm, room temperature or cold—it’s delicious each way.

*Note: If serving to beginner eaters, be sure to keep from over crisping the tofu. You may even want to take your child’s portion out of the oven early, to ensure that it remains soft. Take care to cut noodles and bok choy in to age appropriate bite sizes. Your little one will have a blast slurping up these noodles and noshing on the tofu!

A note on buying coconut oil: I’ve tried several and found that Dr. Bronner’s brand is my favorite. Yes, the soap company makes fair trade and organic virgin coconut oil that is fresh-pressed and unrefined. (Their white kernel has a flavor akin to other brands’ refined oil, while Dr. Bronner’s whole kernel tastes more like what other brands called unrefined.) I first tried Dr. Bronner’s as a free sample provided by the company, but have since purchased their oil. They have not sponsored this post or paid me in any way—I’m sharing my favorite brand with you as a matter of course.

What’s your favorite thing to make with coconut oil? Which brand is your favorite?

10 Responses

  1. Brandi says:

    You can roast tofu? That’s great! A 425 degree oven, like veg? Do you toss it in oil first?

  2. Brandi says:

    Sorry, nevermind. Just read the recipe!

  3. One Hungry Mama says:

    It’s an awesome technique. You can also toss with salt and pepper or even crushed red pepper first, too. Makes it nice and crispy. Enjoy.

  4. This dressing sounds fantastic! I love roasting tofu, and is how I prepare it most often. It sounds perfect for this dish.

  5. Aggie says:

    I’m a little obsessed with soba noodles, need to make it a weekly standby too! I’m still working my way into cooking with coconut oil. This recipe sounds delish! Never thought to roast tofu!

  6. Brandi says:

    Okay, I have no idea if bloggers read comments posted weeks after the original post, but I thought I’d go ahead and send my comments. I made this last night, and I love love love the simplicity of roasting the tofu. I used the Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil, and everything was pretty delicious, except that it was way too much soy sauce. I like a well-seasoned dish, but I had to do some serious tweaking to cut the soy sauce. Maybe it’s just the brand I use? I don’t know, but if anyone is thinking about making this, maybe start with 2 TB of soy sauce, taste, and add more if you like. Just my $0.02.

  7. we do read comments on all posts, even older ones! :-) thanks for chiming in and so glad you liked it. i think we’re on the same page about the soy sauce—my recipe calls for 1/8 a cup which equals about 2 tablespoons. (how much did you use or think I was asking you to use?). Now that I think about it, 2 tablespoons is probably an easier read than 1/8 a cup. Even though it’s the same amount, i’ll change that now!

  8. Martha says:

    Funny, I was wondering if I should comment because I’m kind of late to the party. Glad to know you’re still reading! I just found your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I can’t remember how I found it now, but I’m so glad I did because this tofu cooking method is better and easier than pan frying it to get it crispy. I tried it out on my mom tonight (a tofu virgin) and she liked it. I’m definitely bookmarking this.

  9. Hi, Martha. Roasting tofu is so much better (i.e., easier!!) than pan frying, right? So glad you found me. Hope you keep reading. Keep letting me know how my recipes turn out for you.

  10. Martha says:

    I’ll definitely stick around. I have a five month old, so I’m reading up on your “introducing solids” posts and the like.

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