I have to admit something. I almost named this post “Chilly Chili Soba Noodle Salad.” The wordplay was soooo tempting and in all honesty, it would have been a pretty descriptive name for this dish. Cold noodle salad, a good hit of Sichuan chili oil… I mean, it makes sense.
Sometimes I need to be saved from my own cheesiness.
I am currently revving up for my last weekend before I leave on holidays. Exciting, but also time to put the pedal to the floor and get everything done that I need to before flying out. Make sure everything is under control at work, get lots of blogging posts in the queue, pack, print out all my travel docs, etc. It’s only two little weeks, but it’s surprising how much needs to be considered once you become a full-fledged adult. Lots of responsibilities to juggle, and we don’t even have kids yet. Is my mortgage payment set to auto-deposit? How many days should we put Hannah in doggy-daycare? Who is picking her up each day? Should we put the house lights on a timer? Who will water our tomato plants?
Last time I went to Europe for any length of time it was for 5 months and I was 18 years old. I had little to no responsibilities, other than letting my parents know I was alive- via postcard– every couple weeks (internet cafes weren’t reeeaaally a thing back then. I’m old.) and not blowing through my seemingly massive savings account (translation: the ~$5,000 I had saved up by working over the summertime).
Looking back, I can’t even fathom how I did it. No internet, no smart phones. My French is decent, my Spanish mediocre, and with everything else I just kind of winged it. 15 countries, 5 months. With my incredibly poor sense of direction and little to no knowledge of most of the languages I encountered (with the exception of the mini-phrases found in my guidebook), how did I not get lost and mugged or something?
With all the planning I’ve been able to do in advance for two small weeks in Ireland and Croatia, I had to give myself a reality check. If young, naive, inexperienced Finn wandered the continent with nothing more than a backpack and a copy of Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring, surely it will be a walk in the park for older, wiser, wi-fi-accessible Finn.
I have a loose itinerary, for starters. My accommodation is booked. I have walking maps saved on my phone. I even, in a fit of pure excitement, got a Croatian phrasebook from the library. “Jedna boca vina, molim!” (One bottle of wine, please!)
Seriously, Finn, let’s not overthink this.
I’m just so exciiiiited…
The current forecast for Dublin/Athlone is… 14 degrees and raining all week. Hm. Current forecast for Split is… 38 degrees and full sun every day. Also, did I mention my goal is to only bring carry-on luggage? This is going to be fun to pack for!
Knowing I will likely spend all my time in Croatia wearing sundresses and/or bathing suits I had every intention to eat well, work out and slim up so that I could be my most confident self in little-to-no clothing. Of course, that didn’t happen. Now I’m almost a week away from my departure and, due to the longer hours I have been putting in at work, my pants actually fit tighter than they did when I decided to ‘get fit.’ Ugh!
Lots of salads… lots of veggies. Eat clean, go easy on the after work drinks, skip dessert, walk everywhere. I won’t be a supermodel, but as long as my bikini bottoms stretch over my entire bum crack I think I’ll be a-okay. (TMI?)
Because bowls of lettuce can get tired, I have been getting extra creative with my salads as of late. Lots of colours is a given, I love a rainbow bowl. But different textures and flavour profiles help, too. Vietnamese Salad, one of my favourites, is great with some protein on top. Thai Cucumber Salad is extra refreshing and good with grilled lean meats- winner all around. But what if I’m craving pasta?
It’s too hot for a big bowl of Carbonara, but there is something satisfying about twirling your fork (or chopsticks) around some long noodles. Soba noodles, made of buckwheat, are a low calorie, low carb alternative to classic wheat noodles and serve excellent cold.
Top with as much fresh veggies as you can find and toss it all in a wonderfully light, wonderfully flavourful Szechuan-inspired dressing.
As an added bonus, there is very little fat/oil in this dish and what fat there is transports big, big flavour (chili and sesame). The capsaicin in the chili oil boosts your metabolism, as does the seaweed in the recipe. Just salty enough to be extra flavourful, but not so much that you end up bloated. Aaaand vegan!
Also, it’s still a big bowl of noodles, which pretty much makes it a winner in my books.
|Chilly Chili Soba Noodle Salad|| |
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp chili oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 lb soba noodles
- 1 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- ½ long English cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (garnish)
- Heat sesame and chili oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned. Add soy sauce, maple syrup and rice wine vinegar. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add lime juice and fresh cilantro.
- Place dried seaweed in a small bowl and top with water. The seaweed will rehydrate surprisingly fast and expand as it does, so make sure you leave enough room in the bowl for it to 'grow.'
- Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add soba noodles and cook until al dente (usually around 7 minutes). Drain and rinse immediately with cold water to stop them from cooking further. Place noodles in a bowl, add 1 Tbsp of the dressing and toss to coat. Refrigerate noodles while you prep the veggies.
- Cut all veggies into matchsticks. If serving in individual bowls, arrange noodles at the bottom of the bowl and arrange chopped veggies and seaweed overtop. Finish with a good glug of dressing and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. If serving family-style, place all ingredients in a large bowl, add dressing and toss to coat. Finish with sesame seeds.