A Vinegar a Day | 1 January | Lucky Soba Noodles

For our first recipe of the year, a super-easy riff on a traditional, nutritious Japanese dish

It won't surprise you that we at the Artisan Vinegar Company think that good vinegar goes with pretty much anything. (Not vanilla ice cream, you say? Challenge accepted.) Thus, I've decided to write one vinegar recipe per day this week — just to show the myriad uses of this wonderful sour liquid. Enter Day 1.

In Japan, it's traditional to eat soba noodles around New Year. Just like in China, eating long, thin noodles on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day symbolises longevity and good luck in the year ahead. Unlike most Chinese noodles, however, soba noodles are cut rather than pulled. Making them from scratch is, therefore, an extremely laborious process, especially as they are traditionally made of unforgivingly (but deliciously) gluten-free buckwheat flour.

Luckily, most decently stocked large supermarkets carry soba noodles these days, so you don't have to make them yourself. Try to get the all-buckwheat kind — especially if you want to keep things gluten-free — as they're more authentic and deeply earthy in flavour. They're equally good cold with a dipping sauce (like the one below) or in a warming noodle soup.

It's super fast and simple to whip up a bowl of chilled soba noodles with fragrant, vinegar-laced sauce. Just cook the desired quantity of noodles for 5-6 minutes in boiling water (or according to package instructions), drain off the cooking liquid, and then run the noodles under cold water until they are cool to the touch and no longer stick to each other. Allow to fully drain, then serve tossed with the following sauce. The malt vinegar used has a similar rounded softness to the traditional rice vinegar, only with a fruitier, deeper flavour, which pairs excellently with the buckwheat (but then, we are biased).

Now all you need is chopsticks, and any garnishes you feel like adding – toasted sesame seeds, thinly sliced sheets of toasted seaweed, delicate strands of spring onion... give it a go!

Soba noodle sauce (serves 2-ish)

  • 2 tbsp Artisan Malt Vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Roasted sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp Soy sauce
  • Caster sugar (or Honey, which is an interesting, if not very Japanese-tasting, variation)
  • Ginger, finely grated (skip this if you want an extra-fast sauce)

Mix together all ingredients with a whisk or fork, adjusting quantities of sugar and ginger to taste. If you're like me, resist the urge to drink the sauce while you wait for your noodles to cool.

– Beatrix Swanson

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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