Spicy Cold Soba (Buckwheat Noodles) with Fresh Coriander

coldsobappStunning, complex, seductive, addictive… my English is too limited to describe this seemingly simple dish. If you have ever tasted Zaru Soba (the famous Japanese buckwheat noodles served cold with a delicate dipping sauce), you might already know how miraculously cooling cold soba noodles can be and this originally seasoned variation is no exception.ย Spiced up with chilli powder, ย boosted by the pungency of fresh coriander (cilantro for my US friends) and enriched with the crunchy, nutty sesame seeds, this soba dish will seduce all the amateurs of bolder flavours. The slightly sweet and hot dressing is so good, you will not resist drinking the remains from your bowl. After having had it three times in one week I can officially call it the star of this summer.

I found this wonderful summer treat on Nami’s blog (Just One Cookbook), one of my main sources of Japanese cooking inspiration. I have slightly changed the ingredients’ amounts, adapting them to a dish for one, so visit her blog to check the original recipe and to browse through her impressive collection of clearly explained and professionally photographed – not only Japanese – recipes. Thank you so much, Nami, for one more marvellous discovery!

This dish can be treated as a light main course or a snack, but I prefer it as a side dish. It is perfect with simple stir-fried chicken and goes surprisingly well with the Hawaiian Shoyu Chicken:

Shoyu Chicken
Shoyu Chicken

TIPS: If you have never bought soba noodles, don’t be surprised if you see also wheat flour mentioned on the package. Most soba noodles contain both the buckwheat and the wheat flour (though 100% buckwheat soba exist of course!). The higher the percentage of buckwheat, the stronger the taste is, so if you taste soba for the first time, I advise those containing wheat flour. You might also stumble upon green soba (coloured with green tea) or pinkish (they obtain this colour thanks to cherry flowers).

Soba should stay al dente, so follow precisely the cooking time indicated on your package of noodles. In my case it was 5 minutes (if you don’t have the exact translation of the instructions – my shop translates for example only the ingredients – look out for this kanji: “ๅˆ†” meaning “minute/s”, preceded by a number; the number is usually written in Western way).

For the same reason I wouldn’t advice preparing this dish in advance. The coriander will wilt and the noodles will become too soft and soggy (they might also become sticky). (I follow here Nami’s advice, but I know very well from my own experience how soggy soba noodles are disappointing…).

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

50 g (approx. 2 oz) soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon agave syrup (Nami has used honey)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon white sesame seeds

4 fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped (you can leave some bigger pieces for the decoration)

2 tablespoons chopped green onion (I have used European chives because I didn’t have green onions)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili powder

Cook the soba noodles in boiling water according to your package instructions (it was 5 minutes on mine).

In the meantime prepare the sauce.

In a big bowl combine all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds.

On an empty pan heat the sesame seeds until they start “jumping”. Quickly transfer them to the bowl with the sauce.

Drain and rinse the soba noodles well with cold water.

Rinse again and combine with the sauce ingredients.

Serve immediately. (You can sprinkle with some more sesame seeds and coriander leaves).

36 Replies to “Spicy Cold Soba (Buckwheat Noodles) with Fresh Coriander”

  1. Soba noodles cook so quickly and need minimal ingredients to create a wonderful lunch or supper dish. If you leave out the coriander, I’m sure it would still taste great. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I’m sure coriander is not necessary for those who don’t like it ๐Ÿ˜‰ For the fans it’s crucial!

  2. I can suggest more words – delicious, simple, tasty, al dente, nice, maggi 2-min…
    I have yet to try this, been very curious. I first saw it on Bourdain’s No Reservations and wondered how something so simple can taste so delicious. If I remember I will try to buy it this week.

    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. I am often stuck with my English vocabulary ๐Ÿ˜‰ I like cold soba a lot, but when it’s mixed with fresh herbs it’s really fabulous. I hope you will like it too!

  3. I was a little perplexed until I saw Nami’s original recipe. Soba salad! Nami’s recipe is innovative enough, and yours is even more innovative!

    When you come to Japan, and if you ever decide to order cold soba at a soba ya (buckwheat noodle shop), note the difference between zaru soba and mori soba. The former is usually topped with shredded nori and is about 100-200 yen more expensive than the latter, which is usually served without shredded nori on top. If you do a google image search for
    you will see what I mean.

    1. Thank you so much, Hiroyuki, for this very useful tip. I had no idea! I must admit I haven’t visited any soba ya; I had so many other things to taste! but I certainly will next time. I am very curious how fresh soba will taste!
      This recipe is excellent for those who like strong flavours (chilli and coriander give it a real “kick” ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), but soba remains THE star in this dish of course.

  4. How simple and delicious . . . I shall call the herb ‘coriander’ as ever and make the dish as spring approaches [soon!!] but do not agree with one of the nomenclatures of ‘Maggi 2 min’ ‘a’tall, a’tall, a’tall’ ๐Ÿ™‚ ! [Oh, that happens to be ‘Oirish’ ere someone picks me up for misspelling ๐Ÿ™‚ !] . . .

    1. Thanks a lot, Eha. I’m sure you would like this spiced up soba salad. (I keep on forgetting you have a different season ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

    1. Thank you so much, Kiki. It would keep well but the soba would probably become a bit mushy. I must try to take it to work one day.

    1. Thank you, Karen. When I start craving a new dish almost every day, it’s a sign I will be preparing it very very often.

  5. What a simple little dish. I do love soba noodles, but I’m not sure if they were buckwheat or not. I didn’t read the package. ๐Ÿ™ Like most of your dishes I love the simplicity of them, and the spicy flavors. Fresh cilantro is used a lot in southwestern dishes that have red or green chiles in the them and it’s such a great complement to chile. I’m very curious as to how the spicy and the cilantro stand up to soba noodles. Guess I need to make this and find out. Great little dish Sissi!

    1. Thanks a lot, MJ. All the soba noodles are made with buckwheat, it’s just that some have 100% buckwheat flour, some less.
      I’m sure you would love this boosted version of cold soba. So refreshing!

  6. I was thinking about you yesterday when we were on a tour of Chicago markets with a well known blogger (details to come on Monday) and I was finally able to purchase Agar agar! I’m very excited to make some of your recipes which are perfect for lighter desserts and summer.
    I also saw the variety of soba noodles in the Asian shops that were mind blowing. Buckwheat is rather strongly flavoured (I must admit that I’m not a huge fan in crรชpes) but the earthy flavour of the coriander would definitely keep it at bay. Sissi, your English is beautiful; you have the ability to prose one of the most beautiful descriptions I know out there โ€“ I often find myself licking my lips reading your words.

    1. Eva, you are so sweet… Thank you so much for this kind compliment. I’m often frustrated with my level of English while writing posts…
      If you are not very fond of buckwheat, you can prepare this dish with any type of cold noodles (even spaghetti!). I grew up with buckwheat, so I really love it!
      I hope you will have fun playing with agar agar! Remember to make sure you don’t use too much of it… If you use the amount advised on the package, you will obtain a very hard unpleasant jelly, so use a bit less (like I did in my recipes) to have a nice, wobbly light result. If it doesn’t work for the first time, don’t give up! Once you succeed you will know which amount works best for you. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or doubts. I will be very happy to help.

  7. hehe….I just prepared cold soba noodle for dinner tonight as well, but the ingredient I used were quite different. I think I can eat cold soba everyday in the summer! ๐Ÿ˜› A spicy version sounds super yummy too. I love spicy food.

  8. Hi Sissi! So happy to hear you enjoyed these soba noodles! The fact that you had this 3 times a week made me very happy! It’s very different from traditional soba dishes in Japan (in fact, you probably cannot find something like this in any restaurants) but I’m thankful for being outside of Japan to get some creative ideas from people around me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have to make these again soon as I came back to the States and now I have to cook for my family… xD Thank you so much for your kind mention!

    1. Hi, Nami. Thank you so much again for this wonderful recipe! I have had it now more than three times actually ๐Ÿ˜‰ and I still love them! I have changed to an individual portion here because my husband doesn’t like coriander and I always prepare this dish only for me.
      I have never been in a sobaya in Japan but I have learnt the dipping sauce is very delicate and completely different from this dressing. I like delicate Japanese seasonings, but I couldn’t live without strong chilli flavoured dishes.
      I hope you have had fantastic holidays! I’m sure it was inspiring in terms of food!

    1. Thank you so much, Nipponnin. It’s a perfect discovery for this summer which is particularly hot.

  9. Your English is certainly not limited, Sissi…you described these addictive, simple, and awesome Soba noodles perfectly. Now, I need to make this one, as well. I made Soba noodles the last time…quite similar to yours, and I’m going to the Asian market to stock up on missing items, such as the Soba noodles…just love it!

    1. Elisabeth, you are so kind and sweet… Thank you! Soba noodles are excellent and apparently very healthy too, so we shouldn’t refuse ourselves this small pleasure ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. “follow precisely the cooking time indicated on your package of noodles”
    Sure I will, as soon as I learn to speak Japanese, lol! 99% of the noodles I buy from the Japanese supermarket in Paris I: a) have no idea what the name is and b) have no idea how to cook it. They have to list the ingredients in French by law, but that’s where the courtesy ends and I just try to decrypt the pictograms and hope for the best!

    I can usually identify soba and udon at least though. I tried something similar at a Korean restaurant once and I was really pleased with the flavour. I found it a bit… I don’t know… “weird” at first eating cold noodles, but once you get used to it, it’s very enjoyable!

    1. Hi Charles, have you seen my tip about minutes? For me it’s always enough to know in order to cook noodles properly.
      I grew up with buckwheat groats/grains (which I have been “advertising” to a vegetarian we both know ๐Ÿ˜‰ because it has an impressive content of proteins and is frankly delicious), so imagine my surprise when I started to discover Japanese cuisine and finally tasted soba that most Westerners consider so exotic and different ๐Ÿ˜‰ I had a good laugh because eating soba makes me feel at home!

  11. I follow Nami’s blog too! She is the best source to Japanese food! Your soba noodles look absolutely mouthwatering Sissi! If you were my neighbor I would definitely beg for a bowl!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. You are very kind, as always ๐Ÿ™‚ You are invited whenever you wish.

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