I recall years ago getting take-out for dinner on a routine basis from Fresh on Queen Street West in Toronto right after my Friday evening workout. I wasn’t vegan at the time, but loved Fresh’s vibe and their hearty Buddha Bowl. When I later started exploring plant-based eating, I purchased one of Fresh’s cookbooks. It had a whole section on fresh bowls, the basis for which was either brown rice or soba noodles (also known as buckwheat noodles…more on that in a bit). I love rice and was unfamiliar with soba, so rice was my default for the many bowls we’ve made and enjoyed over the past five years. I only started experimenting with soba recently. And I have to say that I am loving it! Let me tell you why.
What Are Soba Noodles?
I always assumed soba was a grain. After all, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. But buckwheat is neither a grass, nor related to wheat. It is a pseudocereal on the basis that the seeds can be ground and used as cereals.
Are They Good for Us?
Yes! Even as a pseudocereal, buckwheat makes it into the “whole grains” category of Michael Greger MD’s Daily Dozen. A serving of these noodles counts toward our goal of three servings of whole grains per day. Buckwheat is high in protein and a good source of fibre.
And buckwheat is naturally wheat and gluten-free, but refer to the packaging in case of risk of gluten contamination. Also, some soba/buckwheat noodles are made from both wheat and buckwheat flour, so if you are avoiding wheat, look for noodles made with buckwheat, only.
Are They Expensive?
Not necessarily. You may need to shop around a little for the best price. I get the King Soba brand organic 100% buckwheat noodles for about $5.50 at Lyn-Dys Health Food Store in London, ON and Goodness Me at various locations. The package contains about five servings.
Generally when noodles have less than 100% buckwheat (containing some white wheat for example), the price drops, but so does the nutritional value.
How Do We Cook Them?
Much like wheat noodles, add them to a pot of boiling water. Bring the pot back to the boil and then reduce to medium heat. Cook for 5-6 minutes. A couple of things I learned along the way from experience:
-add them slowly to the pot, trying to separate them from each other so they don’t stick together
-rinse them with cold water after cooking so they don’t stick together
How Do We Eat Them?
These noodles are a staple of Asian food culture. They can be part of a soup, salad or bowl. Fresh restaurant’s basic formula for bowls is to have “a grain, a noodle or greens as the base, with a sauce or two, a plant-based protein, loads of vegetables, and accents like herbs, lemon, nuts and seeds, or chili oil.” It’s a formula for deliciousness! Below is one of their bowl recipes. Enjoy!
From the Super Fresh cookbook
1 cup water
1/4 cup tamari
4 cups mixed greens (like bok choy, kale, Swiss chard)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cooked soba noodles
6 Marinated Tofu Steaks (recipe here)
6 tbsp. Raw Sunflower Dressing (recipe below)
1 cup of sunflower sprouts
1 tbsp. raw sunflower seeds, toasted
1 tbsp. raw sesame seeds
I tend to skip the tofu steaks for simplicity. And the sunflower sprouts are totally optional as well.
- Combine water, tamari, mixed greens, and garlic in a large frying pan or wok over high heat and cook until greens are tender.
- Add soba noodles and cook for a couple of minutes, until most of the cooking liquid has evaporated and noodles are heated through.
- Divide cooked noodles and greens between 2 large bowls.
- Top each with 3 tofu steaks (optional) and drizzle with raw sunflower dressing.
- Garnish with sunflower sprouts (optional), sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
Raw Sunflower Dressing
1 cup water
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon, orange or pineapple juice
2/3 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic, minced (I tend to reduce this amount somewhat)
Combine all of the ingredients in a high-speed blinder. Blend on high speed until smooth and frothy. [Alternatively, use a large measuring cup and an immersion blender.] This dressing is best when used right away, but you can transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days, if needed.