August 13, 2013

Sesame Soba & Cucumber Noodles with Tofu

The past week has been a pretty stressful one for me, having to deal with frustrating visa and passport issues.  Back in July, I sent my passport away to apply for an Indian Visa to attend a conference there this September, and the processing time has taken weeks longer than it should have. That wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that I'm supposed to be leaving the country for another conference tomorrow, and my passport is still with the Indian consulate office! They've assured me I'll be able to go pick it up today, so fingers crossed!

It's been hard to be excited for my trip this week with the thought that I might not even be able to go looming over my head, but assuming all goes well, I'll be headed to Japan tomorrow for a conference just outside of Tokyo.

Japan actually never used to be one of the countries on my list of places I'd like to travel in the world, but the more I read about it and hear from others, the more interesting it sounds!

So in honour of my trip, I thought I would make a Japanese-inspired dish to prepare myself for trying a new cuisine, with these sesame soba and cucumber noodles.

I love soba noodles, but I usually pair them with a peanut sauce. This time, I adapted a recipe for sesame noodles from the blog Cookie & Kate, using tahini as the main ingredient in the dressing. Combined with other Japanese ingredients like mirin, rice vinegar, and miso, the sesame dressing was super flavourful, and nice and creamy so that it coated the noodles well.

Along with the soba noodles, I used my spiralizer to slice up a cucumber into long, thin strands about the same size as the soba (it's hard to see them in the pictures because they blended in so well!). I thought the mix of the cucumber noodles with the soba noodles helped to lighten the dish up and make it even more refreshing.

Add in some other vegetables like red pepper and bean sprouts, some simple sauteed tofu for extra protein, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top, and you end up with a complete meal that has everything I like in a noodle dish!

I'm sure once I go to Japan, I'll realize how very inauthentic my soba noodles are, but for now I can enjoy it as my own tasty vegetarian version of Japanese food!  I'm looking forward to sharing more about my trip when I get back later next week!

Sesame Soba & Cucumber Noodles with Tofu
Adapted from Cookie & Kate

1 (350g) package firm tofu
1 (8 oz) package soba noodles
1 cucumber
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 a bunch of green onions (about 4), diced
2-3 cups bean sprouts
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp white miso
2 tsp tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tsp mirin (or a liquid sweetener like agave or honey)
1/2 tbsp water

First, slice the tofu horizontally into three large slabs and press the pieces using a tofu press or a heavy book (lined with paper towels) for at least 30 minutes to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the soba noodles, and cook according to package directions (mine took 5 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water.

Use a julienne peeler or a spiralizer to slice the cucumber into thin noodles (I used the thinnest setting on my spiralizer). Sprinkle the cucumber noodles with a bit of salt to draw out the water and let sit for at least 5-10 minutes. Squeeze out as much water from the noodles as you can, then add to a large bowl with the soba noodles. Add the sliced red pepper, green onions, and bean sprouts to the bowl as well.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes and add them to the pan. Cook until lightly browned on all sides, flipping as needed. Remove from heat and add to the bowl with the noodles.

To make the dressing, stir all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth.  Pour dressing over the noodle mixture and toss until the dressing is thoroughly mixed in. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over everything and toss again.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.


  1. I just love tofu and this recipe looks gorgeous. I'm going to give a go it just looks too good to pass up. Thank you

  2. I want to make this when we get back from the trip, assuming I'm not sick of Japanese food by then! It looks so creamy but refreshing!

  3. Oh no, I hope you got your passport! How stressful. And if you did, HOORAY JAPAN! I went there a few years ago and it was my favorite trip ever. You are going to have an amazing time--I hope you have some time for sightseeing! I was just wondering today if I could make cucumber noodles with my spiralizer and now I know. You are my spiralizer guru. :)

  4. Japan is awesome! You will have a blast. Can't wait to hear all about it and see what you make from your inspiration :)

  5. Hope you are having an incredible time in Japan! I am so so so jealous. I still cannot believe I've never been when I've been learning the language for 12 years! LOL Cannot wait to hear all about your adventures in Japan. Please make sure to post about all of the food too! :)

    This dish looks fantastic. Cannot wait to try it!

  6. YUM, I love cold soba noodle salads- I am sure it would hold up to those served in Japan :)

    Out of curiosity, what do you do for work - I see you travel often and was wondering what career path you selected to allow for such amazing travel opportunities!

    1. Hi Heather - I'm still a grad student, and the research project that I work on involves evaluating a global health treaty, and because it's an international project with partners around the world, the members of our lab travel a lot for meetings and I can submit to international research conferences. I know, I'm very lucky to be in this program with such amazing opportunities!

    2. What an amazing experience & opportunity! I absolutely love reading your travel posts :)



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