Otsu is a Japanese version of Chinese sesame noodles. Otsu means something strange, quaint, stylish, chic, spicy, witty, tasty, or romantic. All I know is, this dish is delicious. The sauce is so good you could drink it (although I wouldn’t recommend doing so!) It is incredibly refreshing and light, something you can’t often say about a pasta dish. Buy 100% buckwheat noodles if you are staying away from gluten (despite the name, buckwheat is gluten-free). You can adjust the temperature by adding more or less cayenne pepper. I typically serve the otsu noodles warm, but it can be really tasty as a cold dish as well.
Ginger Sesame Dressing:
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1-inch cube fresh ginger, peeled, and grated or minced
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your preference)
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup shoyu or tamari (soy sauce)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
For the noodles:
- 12 ounces dried soba noodles
- 12 ounces extra-firm organic tofu
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds*
- To make the dressing, combine the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.
- Cook the soba noodles in boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.
- While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry and cut into rectangles about the size of your thumb.
- Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or two until the tofu is firm and golden.
- In a large bowl, combine the soba, the cilantro, green onions, cucumber, and 3/4 cup of the dressing. Toss well to combine. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Add more dressing if needed.
- Divide into bowls, garnish each bowl with the toasted sesame seeds, and serve.
* To toast the sesame seeds, place in a small dry skillet in a single layer over medium heat. Toss the seeds every few minute until they are fragrant and toasty. Don’t walk away from the skillet (like I have done many times in the past!) or they will burn.
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking.