Cha Soba, Concombre et Tofu
So verdant is this dish that it could have been my contribution to Saint Patrick’s Day. But because the French don’t really celebrate it (unless they happen to find themselves at one of the Irish pubs on boulevard de Clichy) and because my father’s name is Patrick, March 17th is simply that: my father’s fête. He usually receives a gift of pâtes de fruits, we get to help him gobble them up before they have time to hit the ground, and that’s that. No color theme.
So this is not what this dish is about. This dish is about going to dinner on rue Sainte-Anne — Paris’ pocket-sized Japantown — and noticing as you exit the noodle joint that the Juji Ya convenience store is still open. It is about stepping in, walking past the take-out counter and up the steps towards the back of the shop to buy mugicha (barley tea), azuki beans, cha soba (buckwheat noodles flavored with green tea powder), and a block of firm tofu — and throwing in a couple of the mochi rice cakes that blink up at you at the register, to share on the walk home.
It is about thanking your lucky stars when you realize, the next day, that a cucumber has recently taken up quarters in the fridge (yes, you bought it yourself, but sometimes you forget about those things), and that if it joins forces with the tofu, the soba noodles, and a few pantry ingredients, you have the makings of a fine dish of cold soba, possibly the most refreshing, replenishing lunch imaginable.
And finally, it is about setting your chopsticks in twitching motion, slurping up the slippery strands (making sure you do not cut them with your teeth, ever), munching on the crunchy cukes, and exclaiming, because you’ve started learning a little Japanese and would never miss an opportunity to practice, “Oishii desu yo!”*
Juji Ya / map it!
46 rue Sainte-Anne, 75002 Paris
01 42 86 02 22
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- 225g (8 ounces) cha soba (green tea buckwheat noodles)
- 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Japanese rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tbsp sesame paste, a.k.a. tahini or neri-goma
- 300g (10 ounces) firm tofu, diced
- 1 large cucumber, deseeded and diced
- Sesame seeds, toasted
- Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Plunge in ice water to stop the cooking, and leave in a colander to drain.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin, and sesame butter. Add the soba and coat well. Fold in the tofu and cucumber, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.