Sunday, August 5, 2012

Soba with Mushrooms and Spinach

As a child, my diet consisted mostly of Swiss and Italian dishes. Pasta, potatoes, gratin and such. We were fed the occasional Thai curry or sweet and sour pork, but not much else from the exotic department. And it is only in these two cuisines, those I know best, that I stay true to the original recipes and ingredient combinations.
I am not that familiar with Japanese food, my experience of it is limited to 2 or 3 restaurant visits in Switzerland or Germany. I also make sushi from time to time, but I would not consider myself a sushi expert. So when I tell you this dish is Japanese, I am probably wrong.
I cook soba and other Asian noodles like I cook Italian pasta, in salted water, on a rolling boil. I learnt to rinse them in cold water after cooking, but I usually reheat them with the sauce I want to serve them with. And it turns out fine, even great with this dish.

Buckwheat and mushrooms are to be considered close friends in the kitchen, at least in mine. Whenever I cook with buckwheat, I want to add mushrooms, these two earthy flavours complement each other so well. This dish was inspired by a recipe by Heidi Swanson, her Black Sesame Otsu, a recipe from her second book that you can also find on her blog. I made it as she wrote it, too, and I love it, but I also like to change things up. And I have to say, the mushrooms do more for the dish than the tofu in the original recipe. I actually quite like tofu, but it is does not add much flavor to a dish.

Soba with Mushrooms and Spinach

200g soba
500g cremini mushrooms
other dried mushrooms such as Mu-Err, or shiitake (I used a 20g bag of Mu-Err, I don't like shiitake that much. I would not use fungi porcini in this dish)
1 tbsp oil
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
spinach, as much as you want (I used what I had left, about 150g, but would use more next time)
1 tbsp black sesame seeds

Bring a pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, soak the dried mushrooms in warm water and slice and clean the cremini mushrooms. While preparing the sauce, cook the soba according to the package instructions. Drain and then rinse them with cold water. Set aside when finished.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat, add the cremini mushrooms and the ginger and sauté until the become soft. Drain the soaked mushrooms, keeping the soaking water for the sauce. Add the soaked mushrooms to the skillet, sauté for another minute or two, then add the soy sauce, mirin and spinach. Cook until the spinach has wilted, adding some of the mushroom soaking liquid if it seems to dry. Add the cooked and rinsed soba to the skillet, together with some more liquid if it seems necessary. Let it heat up again, then take off the heat, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.

Serves 2.


  1. That's funny about how you liberally adapt all dishes besides eastern asian ones. My boyfriend told me that of all the things he really missed while his year in switzerland, he missed mexican food and vietnamese/thai food the most. You really get some good restaurants here on the West Coast. I love Heidi Swanson's otsu, but I love how you paired it with mushrooms. Definitely doing that next time I get some soba noodles.

    1. I can really understand that your boyfriend missed mexican food in Switzerland, there arent many restaurants, the ones that are around serve kind of boring, party style mexican food, and in the supermarket you can only get fajita kit style mexican food. I'd love to have a wider range of options available here.

  2. Hey, experimentation is great! Who cares if these noodles are authentically Japanese--they're good, right? That's all that really matters. :)