Spring Rolls with Soba Noodles and Cucumber

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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

Dipping sauce:

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.

35 thoughts on “Spring Rolls with Soba Noodles and Cucumber

  1. Elin

    Sissi…that is a great spring roll with soba noodles and cucumber…I would not have thought of it 🙂 Genius ! Healthy and delicious !

  2. ping

    These look absolutely refreshing! I’ve recently fallen in love with vietnamese food. Initially not into it because I’ve had a bad experience. Luckily a friend promised me my next experience would be good 🙂
    Japanese is one of my many comfort food so what better than a combination of both!
    Going over to MJ’s to say hi. I’ve recently become a new fan of hers!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you very much, Ping. What a coincidence! I used to know Vietnamese (or rather pseudo-Vietnamese) food from cheap Europeanised bars woth heavy, greasy dishes. Since then the only Vietnamese thing I did in my kitchen were spring rolls (not always really Vietnamese). A couple of weeks ago I decided I had to learn more about the Vietnamese cuisine and bought a wonderful cookery book. I will be posting a fabulous recipe next week (I’m sure you can get the main ingredient much more easily than me 😉 ).

  3. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles

    Oh, double joy, Sissi and MJ together! Two of my favourite people/sites. Sissi, these rolls are magnificent in their simplicity and beauty… I love how you use delightful ingredients to deliver taste impact without discouraging us with the idea of having to spend hours in the kitchen to obtain the results…and you know, I’m all about the sauce 😉 so I quickly found my way down to see your luscious, warming choice – mmm…. chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar… I’m all over these! Will head over to MJ’s to leave a note :).

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you for kind words and compliments, Kelly. I’m glad you like this unusual idea too. I hate spending lots of time and/or energy in the kitchen, so most of my dishes are quick or easy (I don’t ming simmering something for hours if I have to check every 30 minutes 😉 ). I use this simple and easy sauce with lots of snacks. It works with all the Asian food: Japanese, Vietnamese, vaguely Asian…

  4. A_Boleyn

    I’m quite fond of soba noodles and have a packet (newly purchased … darn that pantry has me brainwashed to keep filling it up) in there destined for a cold salad. Which I should really make before the first snow. 🙂

    Love your spring rolls.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, A_Boleyn. Guess what! My pantry brainwashes me too! My fridge too! Today I was relieved to see I can finally take everything out of my fridge without the need to replace some other products and… something forced me to go and buy lots of food. I was hypnotised by my fridge I think 😉

  5. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I just came back from MJ’s and I am inspired to make it now (waiting for water to boil). I think this might be good with dipping in Taberu Layu too! I will try with Ponzu + sesame oil and Mentsuyu to see which one fits better for my liking!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Nami, I have just come back from MJ’s blog and read your kind compliments. Thank you so much! I hope you will like these rolls. I have put lots of cucumber because I felt too much soba would make them too heavy. I’m sure you can also add some leftover meat, ham etc.. Your sauce idea sounds great! Please let me know if you liked it. (I now use taberu rayu instead of every chili oil because I make it in 1 litre batches!).

  6. mjskit

    Sissi – Thanks again Darlin for sharing your talents and love for food in my kitchen! I’ve enjoyed working with you on and look forward to more! One thing you must know, the tradition of my family is “first visit, you’re a guest – the next visit, you’re family!” 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Dear, MJ, it was a huge pleasure and honour. I will come again whenever you invite me. You have really touched me with all the kind words and compliments you have written today.

  7. Jeno @ Week Nite Meals

    Hi Sissi! Congrats on guest posting again! These Spring Rolls are so interesting, at first glance of the photo, I thought they were sushi rolls, upon closer inspection, I was wondering what the little beige dots are, apparently soba noodles! Bet these are nice and refreshing to eat on hot Summer Days (which we are definitely experiencing again after 2 days of cooler weather).

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Jeno. Even though these are light snacks they are filling enough to eat all year long I think. (I hope!).

  8. elisabeth@foodandthift

    Sissi, your spring rolls with the cucumbers and the soba noodles are so incredibly light and delicious. Just love the dipping sauce that you also made to go so perfectly with the spring rolls. I haven’t made spring rolls in a few years because we can get such really good ones at our local neighborhood fancy supermarket, where they make fresh sushy and spring rolls every day by Japanese chefs…not even expensive!

    In your case, you make all these wonderful Asian appetizers, and dishes and really got serious with the projects where they all look so good and truly authentic.
    Congratulations on your guest posts…you’ve done a great job, and have been busy guest posting!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Elisabeth. I’m a bit disgusted by bought spring rolls because they have to be made with hands… and while you see sushi or maki made with gloves, here other Asian shops/restaurants don’t seem to keep the same hygiene standards (the Japanese here don’t sell spring rolls). Thank you very much for the compliments. It’s a very funny week with two guest posts 😉

  9. Eha

    I have used a lot of soba noodles over the last decades but have never made such interesting spring rolls with them! Look good, are light and should be filling 🙂 ! I think I’ll take Nami’s advice and head for ponzu also!!

  10. Liz

    Sissi, your spring rolls are beautiful and tempting! I’d be happy to eat a whole bowlful of these lovely treats. Lovely guest post, too…have a wonderful weekend~

  11. shuhan

    that looks soooo pretty! and so light and altogether just refreshing! I love the contrast of textures from the crunchy cucumbers and soft nutty noodles.

  12. Eva

    Sorry but I’m having to contend with shoddy Internet service in Budapest and its very frustrating. Sometimes it takes 6 minutes to post and then it times out! Argh!
    I adore buckwheat noodles and Nami just did a guest post on Charles’ blog using them quite creatively (for me, anyway, as I usually only have sobs noodles in soup!). This is another creative use, thank you.

  13. Katerina

    Sissi they look delicious! I have never tried soba noodles. I must check at the Asian grocery store I know. Indeed an unusual combination with the rice papers, but then again food is all about experimenting and discovering new tastes!

  14. Tina (PinayInTexas)

    Nice to see you at MJ’s blog, Sissi! Haven’t been here for quite a while because of my busy sched…and I am glad to be back here today!
    This recipe you have here is simply awesome! I have only tried vermicelli noodles in spring rolls…never thought of using soba noodles! Love the wonderful idea!

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