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Loading The Journey, Part Two
  • Soba Salad with Chili Vinaigrette

    Soba Salad with Chili Vinaigrette

    This dish is my homage to my first real taste of Japanese food—with a little something different added. My first meal when I arrived in Japan to study, after my host family picked me up, was at a soba-ya (noodle restaurant), but a little fancier than what you might imagine a ramen house to be. They brought out these giant boats full of cold soaked noodles and ponzu sauce with freshly grated horseradish and all this tempura. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen. The naru (cold) soba was so good, it is, to this day, one of my favorite things to eat in the whole world, even in the winter. The chili vinaigrette is also one of my favorite condiments and salad dressings. It’s really more Chinese and Korean than Japanese, but I love the depth of flavors in it, so I thought it would be a really great combination with the noodles.

    Servings & Time

    • Servings 8
    • Prep 10 minutes
    • Cook 5 minutes


    • 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
    • 1/4 cup chili bean sauce
    • 1/4 cup clear rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the noodles
    • One 8-serving package buckwheat noodles (about 24 ounces)
    • Sliced scallions (optional)
    • Crushed peanuts (optional)


    To make the chili vinaigrette, whisk together the sesame oil, bean sauce, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl until blended. Makes about 1 cup. (Make-ahead and leftover tip.)

    Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Fill a large stainless steel bowl with ice water.

    Once the water has come to a boil, add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes. Using a spider (or drain in a colander), transfer the noodles from the boiling water to the ice water and let sit until completely cool. (Make-ahead tip.)

    Place the noodles in a large mixing bowl and toss with 1/2 to 1 cup of the chili vinaigrette, depending on how you are serving. If serving simply, use less dressing as it is quite spicy. Serve in individual bowls topped with scallions and peanuts if desired.

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