2 teaspoons sesame oil
6 scallions, white part finely sliced, green part chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
5 small dried chiles (optional)
¼ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
In a medium pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the finely-chopped white scallions, garlic, ginger and chiles, and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar and mirin, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch to combine. Pour about ¼ cup of the hot sauce over the mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth and lump free. Return the mixture to the pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in the large pieces of green scallion.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and has good flavor, 7 to 9 minutes more.
Noodles and vegetables
8 ounces buckwheat noodles
A mixture of raw vegetables of your choice (such as carrots, cucumbers, radishes or daikon; see Note for more suggestions)
2 to 3 tablespoons miso (red is recommend; white would be just fine)
1 2-inch piece ginger, finely grated
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime), plus lime wedges for serving
Cook the noodles in well-salted water until tender but firm for the time recommended on your package of noodles. What, your package is only in Japanese, like mine? Most are cooked between 5 and 8 minutes, so test at 5 and add more minutes if needed.
Meanwhile, grate, julienne or thinly slice vegetables of your choice.
Drain noodles and run cold water over them to cool. Drain again, shaking out excess water.
Make the dressing by whisking the smaller amount of miso plus the remaining sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust to make sweeter (with more sugar) or more intense and salty (with the last tablespoon of miso) if desired.
Divide noodles among four bowls; toss each with a tablespoon of the sauce, plus more to taste. Top with vegetables and extra droplets of sauce. Serve with lime wedges.
Mirin is a rice wine, similar to sake but lower in alcohol and much more sweet. If you can’t find it or don’t wish to buy it (a bottle of the basic stuff is usually around or just under $5), you might try using sake, or a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar and white wine or just water, I’d say 1 tablespoon of each liquid plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar to replace the 2 tablespoons of mirin recommended below.
If you have access to an Asian grocery store (New Yorkers, I use the M2M shops often), see if you can find 100 percent buckwheat soba noodles (which would also be gluten-free); they’re inexpensive and wonderful here. Mine had a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour, which is more common. If you cannot find them, you can use rice noodles or even spaghetti in a pinch. Here’s a good read on different Asian noodles.
Use whichever medley of cold, crunchy vegetables you’d like here; Tanis recommends daikon (a long, white mild radish), cucumber, radishes, radish sprouts and shiso leaves; I cleaned out my produce drawer with some julienned carrots, thinly sliced string beans, radishes, cucumbers and some wasabi micro-greens I couldn’t resist at the Greenmarket. Tanis suggests soaking grated daikon in the sauce, which I have no doubt mellows it, but I wanted to keep things simpler here.
I should forewarn that 3 tablespoons of red miso (a saltier, more intenseversion of white miso; you can use white miso here too if you don’t have red) will make a very salty sauce. We liked it, but we also used just a little per bowl. You can use the full amount and go easy on the sauce as we did, bump up the sugar, or you can start with less of the miso and only add more to taste. I’m recommending the latter above.
Serves 4 as a light meal or appetizer; for bigger appetites, you might want to double this