Spicy Soba Noodles

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There are so many different kinds of pasta that sometimes we miss trying types of Asian noodles that are so delicious.  I have a new favorite dish made with soba noodles. Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat, synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. Using soba noodles instead of white-flour spaghetti is a good way to cut back on calories and carbs. In fact, you can cut your calories almost in half by making the swap. Due to their buckwheat content, soba noodles are a slow-releasing carbohydrate with a low glycemic index.

I have eaten soba in soups before, as well as served cold with dipping sauces, but I discovered a blog post on Molly Parr’s blog Cheap Beets which sounded so good that I tried it this week.  It can be found on many food websites since the publication of the cookbook Plenty, published by Yotam Ottolenghi, a London chef and food columnist.  I modified the recipe only slightly, shown by my notes in parentheses. It is good as a vegetarian entree, or topped with grilled shrimp or chicken. Either way, it is a flavorful combination of sweet and heat that you will enjoy.  When you read the recipe, don’t be discouraged by all the steps. While the water is heating you can prep the mango and eggplant, and cook the eggplant while the noodles cook. It all took me about 30 minutes, but it is important to let the mixture marinate for an hour or longer.  Adding the remainder of the chopped fresh herbs at serving time gives an extra surge of bright flavor.

Spicy Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
 ½ cup rice vinegar
3 Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ fresh red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup sunflower oil (or your cooking oil preference)
2 eggplants, cut into ¾-inch dice (I only used 1 because that is what I had)
9 oz. soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into half inch cubes
1 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you use Thai basil, use much less of it)
2 ½ cups cilantro leaves, chopped
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
 
In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add lime zest and juice.
Heat oil in a large pan and fry the eggplant in several batches to avoid crowding. Once golden brown, remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave to drain.
Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel. This step really helps dry the noodles off so they absorb marinade better.
In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. Set aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well before serving.  
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