Roadtrip Dinner Redux: Shichimi-Spiced Soba Noodles
"When you come to a fork in the road - take it." -- Yogi Berra
When the legendary New York Yankees Hall of Famer offered this snippet of sagacity, it was chalked up as yet another nonsensical utterance from a master of malapropism. After all, how can one simultaneously travel two divergent paths? As it turns out, Mr. Berra is as profound in his verbal contortions as his (nick)namesake yoga practitioners are in their meditative poses.
According to conventional wisdom, the symbolic utensil marks, as Wikipedia so eloquently puts it, "a road bifurcation" and signifies the point at which one must choose between two new paths before moving forward. But what if we are approaching from the wrong perspective? What if, instead of looking in the direction where one branch separates into two, we turn toward where two join into one? This is the point of view I chose when faced with updating my blog after an extended hiatus.
At the end of 17 days, 11 states and hundreds of Goldfish crackers consumed, Mr. Noodle and I returned home from our roadtrip in the Big Maroon stuffed with souvenirs and suitcases. I was eager to post stories and photos of our experiences as soon as possible, but I had an important social obligation to consider: For the past couple of months, I've participated in the International Incident Party in which fellow bloggers create a dish based on a theme, such as pizza or dumplings. In a fleeting fit of selfishness, I nearly sent my regrets to our hostess Penny at Jeroxie so that I could focus on travel posts, then reconsidered when it dawned on me that this month's theme is none other than noodles. What a sad, sad day indeed if this Noodle passed on such an eponymous event.
I was forked . . . a blog post has to be written, but would it be for the noodle party or an excerpt from our adventures? As the wise Yogi said, "Take it." So I did - instead of choosing between the two topics, I found a perfect convergence of both.
Roadtrip Dinner Redux: Noodles in Nebraska
The first day of our Wild West Wanderings began with a dash across Minnesota, clipping South Dakota before ending in the city of North Platte, Nebraska - "the place everything that's good happens [sic]". With this promising slogan in mind and still naïvely optimistic about The Plan (my strategy for healthful vacation eating), Mr. Noodle and I checked into our modest hotel, then went in search of provisions. We were looking for ready-to-serve meals from the local grocery - a rotisserie chicken, perhaps, or a savory soup and salad combination. What we found was a distressing abundance of deep-fried and mayonnaise-soaked food; what we ended up buying were two packages of microwavable udon soup bowls and some pre-cooked salad shrimp. So much for The Plan . . .
Still, such a meal was preferable to the calorie-dense chain restaurant options and was enough to satisfy two desperate appetites. Several weeks later, it provided inspiration for my International Incident Party contribution and a second chance to turn the memory of a banal bowl of noodles into a sassy dish worth remembering.
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7 Spice Seasoning)
It was also an opportunity to make use of a new-to-me ingredient: shichimi togarashi, a tongue-tingling Japanese table condiment commonly used to season soups, noodles, rice, fish and meat. Aside from wasabi and its eye-watering, sinus-clearing pungency, and maki sushi (e.g. tuna, salmon) made with spicy mayo, I was unfamiliar with the use of hot, peppery notes in Japanese cuisine. In fact, this seven spice mixture has been a favorite seasoning since 1625, when it was first created as a medicinal food additive by Yagenbori Shichimi Togarashi, which remains a premier supplier of shichimi today. The company still offers the original blend consisting of dried Satsuma orange peel, fresh and roasted red pepper, sansho (Japanese pepper) and poppy, hemp and black sesame seeds, although other versions on the market use Sichuan peppercorn in place of sansho (the latter is a variant of the former) and may include chopped garlic, ground ginger or nori (dried seaweed) flakes.
With such a storied and intriguing ingredient in hand, I came upon a fork in the road - one way going to the International Incident Party in Melbourne, Australia and another leading to a post about a subpar dinner in North Platte, Nebraska - that happily converged into a single path toward noodle nirvana.
Shichimi-Spiced Soba Noodles with Shredded Parsnips
For this Roadtrip Dinner Redux, I made a dish that I wish we had eaten in North Platte, by swapping out the thick udon and hot miso broth of our microwave meal for delicate soba and a chilled, flavorful dressing inspired by the elements of shichimi togarashi. For some texture, I topped it with blanched shredded parsnip, which added a bit of crispness and a sweet, herb-like taste to the noodles. The result is a spicy-cool dish that offers a light and refreshing alternative to summer's ubiquitous pasta and potato salads.
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 soy sauce
1 Tbsps granulated sugar
2 Tbsps mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)
2 Tbsps sesame oil
1-2 dashes patis (fish sauce)
1/2 tsp shichimi togarashi
1/2 tsp ginger - grated or paste
180g soba noodles
1 cup shredded parsnip, blanched
Black and white sesame seeds
Sprigs of Thai basil
1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly until well-blended (I used a hand blender). Refrigerate while preparing noodles and blanching parsnips;
2. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. When done, place in a separate bowl and add blanched parsnip; spoon chilled dressing over and toss until well coated. Return reserve sauce and noodles to the refrigerator if not serving immediately.
3. To serve, divide noodles on 4 plates, sprinkle with shichimi, sesame seeds and top with basil.
I hope you'll enjoy this revisionist taste of our North Platte Noodle experience, which also serves as my contribution to the International Incident Party. For even more noodles of all shapes, sizes and wonderful flavors, please check out the delightful creations of my fellow Partygoers:
- Penny – Jeroxie (Addictive & Consuming) – Homemade ban mian with minced pork and mushrooms
- Christine – Christine’s Recipes – Spicy Pork Mince and Noodles in Crisp Lettuce Cups
- Mardi – Eat, Live, Travel, Write – Ginger scallion & Butter noodles
- Trix – Tasty Trix – Summer ‘Noodles’ with yellow and green zuchinni with cool basil oil tomato sauce
- Shirley – Enriching your kid – Vermicilli Biryani with Tahini
- Natasha – 5 Star Foodie – Homemade Soba Noodles
- Anges – Off the spork – Handpulled noodles at home
- Joanne – Second Helping
- Cherry – Sweet Cherry Pie – Coconut noodles with honey glazed pork belly
- Evelyne - Cheap Ethnic Eatz – Incidental Noodles
- Ms Baklover - Footscray Food Blog – Zha Jiang Mian
- Casey – Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgari
- Tamar – Koreanfornian Cooking – Tteokbokki
- Billy – Half-Eaten – Pumpkin Miso Noodles in Shitake Dashi Broth
- Nina – Consumed Food Love – Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- Suresh – 3 hungry tummies – Twice cooked pork with rice noodles
- Anh – A food Lover’s Journey – Taco Soba Noodle
- Lori – Wannabe Gourmand – Nonya Curry Laksa