Salad leftovers transformed into a soba salad. (Photo: Donna Yen)
The art of transforming leftovers into a completely new meal is a special skill I’ve developed during my post college years. After joining the real world with my first full-time job, I realize there are not many hours left in the day for a homecooked meal. Back in college it was the opposite: I had all the time in the world. I could spend all day making stocks from scratch, roasting chickens, and bake bread for fun in between exams and classes. These days, I’m lucky if I have anything in the fridge to cook with that hasn’t already gone bad. This is when takeout comes in handy.
For many of us living in urban areas, ordering out is convenient and almost cheaper than buying groceries. Meal planning, buying groceries, prepping and cooking meals takes a lot of time. And when you’re surrounded by countless of restaurants, eating out or ordering delivery online usually wins. So next time you come home with your box of takeout, or your lifeless office lunch that doesn’t look so hot as it did then — don’t throw it out! I’m here to say with a little creativity and the right pantry you can make anything into a brand new spankin’ dish.
Leftover Soba Noodle Salad. (Photo: Donna Yen)
This week I take what’s left of my office shrimp lunch salad and turn it into a delicious Japanese noodle dinner salad. The dish definitely hit the spot and was a perfect weeknight meal. It was flavorful, somewhat healthy, and it took less than 20 minutes to make.
Office lunch salad with shrimp, carrots, edamame, and scallions. (Photo: Donna Yen)
Here’s how it went down:
During the week I usually try to order salad for lunch. That day I ordered shrimp, carrots, cucumbers, edamame, and scallions on a bed of romaine and mesclun greens. It was a a killer combo but I could barely get halfway down the bowl. With the fall weather in full effect I knew I wanted to mix what was left with Japanese buckwheat noodles.
Soba salad ingredients. (Photo: Donna Yen)
The key to taking your leftovers to the next level is a good pantry. I often have dried noodles and rice on hand if I ever want to make a dish more filling. Soba usually comes in bundles and one was just enough to serve two people with all the green salad. For the dressing I used soy sauce, sesame oil, and mirin for a little sweetness. I added a little lime juice to brighten it up, and ginger for some zing.
Soba salad dressing. (Photo: Donna Yen)
When adding fresh ginger to the sauce I use my trusty Mircoplane. It’s one of the kitchen tools I can’t live without. It’s not only great for grating cheese, but I love using it to finely shave ginger without the mess (this works wonders for garlic, too).
Wash soba noodles in cold bath to rid of excess starch. (Photo: Donna Yen)
If you’ve ever made soba before they can easily get gummy so the key to ensuring your soba noodles aren’t mushy is to wash them in a cold bath of water after they’ve been boiled.
Leftover soba noodle salad that takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. (Photo: Donna Yen)
Depending on how you like your salad and noodle ratio you can add between 2-3 cups of salad. Add your dressing to taste, mix it all together, and serve!
Leftover Soba Noodle Salad
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger
Juice of half a lime
1 bundle of soba noodles
2 cups of any salad mix
1 teaspoon of roasted sesame seeds
Bring to boil a pot of water. Once it’s boiling add in the bundle of soba noodles and stir them so they are completely submerged. Cook the noodles for the time indicated on the package. When the noodles are ready, drain them with a colander and then dump them into a bowl of cold water. Rub your noodles together to wash off the excess starch. Then drain the noodles in a colander and allow them to sit for a few minutes until all the water has run off.
While the noodles sit, work on the dressing:
Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, and mirin in a bowl. Grate a teaspoon of freshly peeled ginger into the bowl. Mix it all together until they are well combined.
In a large bowl toss together the soba noodles and salad. Dress the noodle salad with the dressing to taste and garnish with roasted sesame seeds. Serve with your favorite hot sauce and enjoy!
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