One of my favorite meals to make with whatever is in the fridge is stir fry. It cooks up quickly and has a million permutations. It can be time-consuming to prepare with all the chopping that needs to be done, but I’ve been known to do that in advance.
That’s not what this post is about, though. It’s about the 25 minutes it takes to cook rice. Or it’s about the nights when 25 minutes is too long. (Most rice I cook for 15-18 minutes then let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving.)
My solution? Soba.
By replacing the rice with buckwheat noodles, prep time is cut by 75% for your starch base. Instead of cooking for 17 minutes, soba just needs to boil for 4 minutes. While the water heats up you can prep your veggies. While the soba boils, you can stir fry them. This is fast.
The other ingredients are simple: Napa cabbage, a scallion, garlic, tofu, toasted sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and sesame seeds on top.
A handful of Napa cabbage leaves, chopped, a single scallion, a clove of garlic, minced, and some tofu cut in cubes make for a nice contrast of textures and flavors with just a few minutes of stir-frying. When I made this I was really hungry, so after I served myself I told my husband that there was a little extra if he was hungry (he had been sick and not eating much). After a few bites I told him that I was wrong, there wasn’t enough for him.
Soba with Napa Cabbage and Tofu
Normally I drain tofu for stir fry, but for expediency I did not this time. The result is less crispy but still delicious tofu. If using firm tofu instead of extra firm, you may want to drain it.
4 ounces dried soba noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, divided
5-6 leaves Napa cabbage, chopped
1 scallion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1.) Bring a quart of unsalted water to a boil. Add soba noodles. Boil for 3-4 minutes (or slightly under as directed on package) and drain.
2.) Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable or peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. If the pan is not hot enough, your food will stick. When oil shimmers or starts to smoke, add cubed tofu. Shake the pan and toss cubes until golden. Set aside.
3.) Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan if needed and reheat. Add white parts of scallion and garlic and stir briefly, then add Napa cabbage. Stir fry 2-3 minutes until cabbage is slightly softened. Add cooked soba noodles and tofu back into the pan, plus soy sauce, and stir fry about one minute.
4.) Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds topped with the green parts of the scallion.