Last week I asked my friends "Tell the truth: isn't crispy the best part of any dish?", and got impassioned responses, ranging from "Of course. Crispy is carmelized", to "Not if it's a gummy bear…" . For me, it is all about the crunch and those toasty flavors. So when I found I had lots of noodles left from last week's Japanese-style soba noodle soup, I knew just what I wanted to do with them: pan-fry them into a little pancake with lots of surface area, so it is all crispy, all the time.
My hope was that these guys would form a pancake without having to add egg or any other binder, so I could really crisp up the noodles without burning the egg, and it worked great! They locked together beautifully.
For condiments, I added sesame seeds which are always happy whenever toasty flavors are around, cucumber and green onion, and a dipping sauce made from Korean gochujang (aka kochujang) chili paste with mirin. Buckwheat noodles are eaten in Korea too; I know they are served cold in a dish called naengmyon, but I'm not sure if they go by a different name when hot, or if they are ever fried. Can anyone enlighten me?
I really enjoy gochujang as an alternative to other chili pastes. It not extremely hot, and usually includes fermented soybeans and rice for a rather complex, appetizing flavor. I would compare it to chilis mixed with miso. If you don't have access to gochujang, you could make another kind of chili sauce using, say, Sriracha.
I think this dish would be best served as an appetizer or bar snack, with cold sake or beer. It makes for fairly messy eating as the crispy, salty noodles break up, so I wouldn't necessarily hand pass it to people in their best party dresses!
By the way, drop me a line on Twitter, I'd love to engage in more conversation with y'all. (Can you tell I grew up in Kentucky?)
Crispy Soba Noodle Pancakes with Korean Kochujang Hot Sauce
Vegetarian and vegan; not gluten-free
Makes about 8 pancakes
- 1/2 cup gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- mirin (rice wine), or for a different taste, rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 lb. dry soba noodles, cooked and cooled according to package directions
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- vegetable oil for frying
- sea salt
- black pepper
- 3 green onions (scallions), white parts, thinly sliced
- cucumber, peeled if needed, thinly sliced
- toasted sesame oil
- Whisk the gochujang with the mirin until it reaches a dipping sauce consistency, and set aside.
- Combine the soba noodles with the sesame seeds.
- In your largest skillet, bring about 1/8" of oil to frying temperature over medium-high heat. Just short of smoking hot.
- For each pancake, put a nice handful of noodles in the skillet and sort of press down to flatten. Do as many as you can comfortably fit at one time. Fry on one side until golden brown, maybe a minute or two, then flip and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels and season with sea salt.
- Serve as soon as possible, garnished with a grind of black pepper, green onions, cucumber and a few drops of toasted sesame oil, and pass the dipping sauce.