Still in a joyful mood as a recent Charles’s guest blogger, here I am, travelling far across the ocean, straight to MJ’s Kitchen. Fascinated by MJ’s Southern cuisine, so exotic and different from mine, and impressed by her meticulous approach to every single recipe and ingredient, I am very proud to guest post for her today and sincerely hope you will visit her beautiful blog.
Given my passion for the Asian cuisine, I was glad that MJ suggested it for today. The last hot sunny days are still there, so I have chosen to present you a recent snack discovery. It is a cross between Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine, driven by an inspiring recipe on a… Korean blog. It sounds a bit complicated, but in reality this four-ingredient recipe is quite quick and simple.
Vietnamese rice paper used to prepare the famous spring rolls is a versatile staple I enjoy every summer. It is easy to stock, it has a very long shelf life and filled with vegetable or meat leftovers, it can be transformed into delicious, light sandwich alternatives. Even though I experiment a lot with rice paper, I would have never thought of combining them with Japanese soba noodles (see below), if I hadn’t spotted Soba and Kimchi Rolls at Heart Mind and Seoul blog. The rolls looked delicious and the presence of soba noodles was particularly surprising and tempting. The day I decided to recreate this recipe I ran out of kimchi, so I decided to replace it with cucumber for a crunchy, fresh note.
These simple rolls proved one of these rare vegetarian (and even vegan) snacks in which, even as an avowed carni- and piscivore, I didn’t mind the absence of fish or meat. This was probably due to the fact that soba noodles have a high protein content and are quite filling. They are satiating, but not heavy thanks to the substantial amount of the cucumber and the light, hot dipping sauce. They are an excellent alternative to sandwiches and I have particularly appreciated them as an afternoon snack. Halved horizontally, they make original party finger food. For a more complete meal, I can imagine them as a side dish with grilled meat or fish. Thank you, Sook, for the inspiration!
Soba (蕎麦) means in Japanese both buckwheat and buckwheat noodles. Soba noodles have a nutty taste and a characteristic strong aroma and can be served in both hot and cold dishes, the latter being particularly popular in cooling summer dishes. They are popular in whole Japan, but are apparently particularly in Tokio. According to wikipedia, in the Edo period (from 1603 to 1868) the rich population of Edo (the ancient name of Tokio) who consumed only white rice, poor in thiamine (vitamin B1) the deficiency of which lead to beriberi. When it was discovered that soba was rich in thiamine, the Edo population started to consume it in big amounts.
Buckwheat is not only transformed into flour and consumed not only in Japan. In fact hulled and roasted buckwheat grains are very popular in several Central and Eastern European countries (Russia, Poland, Ukraine…). In France “gallettes” or savoury crêpes originating from Brettany region are also made with buckwheat flour. Belonging to the Fagopyrum genus, buckwheat is not a grass, nor a cereal, even though it looks like one. Its qualities are so numerous, it is surprising most of the Western countries never consume it. It is very rich in protein, minerals, antioxydants, iron and doesn’t contain any gluten, so can be consumed by people who don’t tolerate it. Moreover, buckwheat grows very quickly and easily. That is why it can be cultivated in cold climate and crops can be easily multiplied in hot regions. If you ever have the chance, taste buckwheat honey. It has an unforgettable aroma and taste.
TIP: Dried noodles called “soba” can be bought in Japanese grocery shops, but most of them contain a mixture of buckwheat and wheat flours, so check well the ingredients before buying. My favourite are 100% buckwheat soba (juwari 十割 or towari) because of their intense flavour and aroma, but some people find it too strong. Soba noodles are usually light brown, but they can also be green when mixed with green tea (cha soba) or seaweed (hegi soba) and light pink when flavoured with cherry (sakura soba).
Preparation: about 20 minutes
Ingredients (for 5 – 6 rolls):
6 rice paper sheets (22 cm/about 8,6 in. diameter)
50 – 60 g (about 2 oz.) soba noodles
1/2 big cucumber
2 – 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (or less if using standard soy sauce)
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Cook the soba noodles for 3-4 minutes in boiling unsalted water (the time depends on the brand and the kind of noodles, so check the exact time on the package).
Drain the noodles with very cold water to stop them from further softening.
Cut the noodles in two (shorter noodles will be easier to use here) and put aside.
Prepare the cucumber cutting it in 6 cm sticks.
Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.
Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them.
As soon as the sheet softens (about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a chopping board.
Place horizontally, about 5 cm/2 in. from the rice paper edge which is closest to you, a stack composed of noodles and cucumber pieces.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you.
Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.
Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally.
If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.