My mom came for dinner the other night and I wanted to make something new—something refreshing that felt healthy and filling. I turned to 101 Cookbooks for inspiration and found this little gem. Apparently it originally comes from a San Francisco restaurant called Pomelo and is on their menu as “otsu.” Also apparently it’s delicious. I think I’ve found a new way to cook tofu, too—it holds together nicely in a pan without any oil. And of course, it showcases the king of all herbs, cilantro. Cilantro cilantro cilantro.
I made a few augmentations for simplicity and learned that if you can’t find soba noodles (which I couldn’t on my last-minute shopping trip), whole grain linguine works rather nicely. I also pressed the tofu between two plates and put a heavy book on top to help squeeze out the excess moisture.
In the end, this can be served hot or cold and is delicious either way.
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1 tbsp honey
3/4 tsp cayenne
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
12 oz dried soba noodles
12 oz extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, salt, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce in a food processor and process until smooth. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils. (I actually did all this with a stick blender, but it got a little sloppy so I think the food processor works best.)
Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.
At the same time, toast the sesame seeds in a small dry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, cilantro, green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and a few cilantro sprigs for garnish.