Recipe: Korean-style soba noodle salad

Nutty soba noodles, crisp romaine lettuce and refreshing cucumber strips are topped with a sweet-spicy vinaigrette for a light, satisfying meal.

This Korean-style soba salad is inspired by a similar salad from Namu Gaji in San Francisco. Photo: Benjamin Seto.
This Korean-style soba salad makes a refreshing, satisfying meal. Photo: Benjamin Seto.

Summer is salad season, and while noodle salad may not seem like a light dish, the crunch and freshness of romaine lettuce and thin strips of cucumber are what makes this soba noodle salad refreshing and satisfying.

This recipe was inspired by a similar soba salad I ate at Namu Gaji, a restaurant in San Francisco. I replicated the crunch of the vegetables with the sweet-spicy vinaigrette, which I made with sesame oil and gochujang, the distinctive Korean chili paste.

Some of the ingredients, like the pine nuts, kimchi and microgreens, are optional. But you definitely can’t skip the romaine, cucumbers and, of course, soba noodles.

Korean-style soba noodle salad

Makes four servings

6 ounces dried soba noodles
1 small head of romaine lettuce (about 2 to 3 cups)
1 Belgian endive
1 English cucumber
2 medium carrots
1 1/2 ounces microgreens
Toasted pine nuts and kimchi for garnish

Dressing:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon gochujang paste

Boil water in a large pot. Add soba noodles with some salt. Cook per package instructions (typically 4 minutes) and drain. Rinse in cold water and drain again, then set aside. (Tip: It’s important to rinse the noodles so they don’t get gummy. After rinsing, add a drizzle of sesame oil and mix to keep the noodles from clumping.)

Chop lettuce and endive lengthwise into thin shreds. Remove seeds from cucumber and cut into long thin, julienned strips like noodles. Do the same for the carrots. Toss lettuce, endive, cucumber, carrots and microgreens in a large salad bowl. Add soba noodles and garnish with kimchi and toasted pine nuts.

In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing. It’s important to taste to see if you need more sugar or vinegar. When it’s to your taste, drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving. Eat immediately.

A bowl filled with soba noodles, julienned carrots, lettuce, pine nuts, kimchi and microgreens.
Photo: Benjamin Seto.

Benjamin Seto is the voice behind Focus:Snap:Eat, where you can find additional recipes from his Oakland kitchen.