The first time I had soba salad was at Mrs. Hoffman house. She was my mother's friend from Chatswood, CA. I called her Hoffman-san because she was Japanese. But when lunchtime came, both my mother and I realized Hoffman san was quite Americanized. It was the way she served soba. She sliced up some of her garden tomatoes, lettuce and put them in a large salad bowl with soba noodles. We were a little culture shocked to see Hoffman-san generously pouring salad dressing over soba.
Traditionally, soba is eaten plain with a dipping sauce or served in a broth with toppings. Never as a salad. We ate the soba salad, as we heard Hoffman-san talked about her vegetable garden. I didn't dislike the salad but back then, I could never imagine serving soba that way. It was my first encounter with fusion food. Then years went by, and I started to see more people do it. Perhaps, for the American palate, the plain way Japanese serve soba tastes bland and feels incomplete as a meal. Dried soba noodles can do that to you, especially since it is made with mostly wheat, and doesn't have much buckwheat flavor.
There is nothing bland about pure soba. Soba which is the Japanese word for buckwehat, is a complete protein, higher in content than any wheat or rice, and it is full of vitamins, fiber and minerals. In ancient times, Buddhist mocks would go into the mountains for meditation and take just soba to eat.
Soba Salad at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica
This week, I ate two soba salads. I took pictures of them with my i-Phone. I ordered them from the menu of these two restaurants because I was curious to see how they tasted. The soba salad at Tavern was made with soba, red peppers, red onions, parsely, napa cabbage and served with a rice vinegar dressing. I liked the sweet red peppers with soba but unfortunately, the noodles were limp and too oily. It might have tasted better if they had served the dressing on the side.
At Real Food Daily, the soba salad was served with the dressing on the side. I liked that part. The salad contained a big portion of soba, napa cabbage, carrots, green onions, peanuts, red cabbage and served with a spicy peanut butter dressing sweetened with maple syrup and spiced with cayenne pepper. This dressing was a little too sweet and the soba was over cooked. I ate the vegetables but left most of the soba untouched.
The idea of putting oil on soba will probably never totally agree with my palate but I am happy that soba is on the menu of western style restaurants. Soba should always be freshly cooked and served right away. Fresh soba would taste even better but we have a long ways to go for that to happen in western style restaurants. Soba is tooted for its wholesome nutrition. That's the right place to start in America.