This picture is a little grainy because I had to use my phone. In a moment of genius, I left my camera open all night and the battery died.
Dave and I both love soba noodles, so I'm always looking for new recipes that use them. Tofu is a bonus, so this recipe for Black Sesame Otsu looked interesting. I had no idea what an otsu was, but from what the internet tells me, it's a soba noodle salad with vegetables.
Comparing my picture to the one on 101 cookbooks, it's clear that my tofu didn't brown properly. This is something I need to work on. Usually when I attempt to brown tofu, it inevitably sticks to the pan like hair gel to a Jersey Shore cast member. I think it's because I turn my heat up too high and don't add enough oil to the pan. Regardless, I've read up on it and hopefully it will work properly next time.
I have black sesame seeds, but not enough for the 1/4 cup I needed to make the sesame paste. I used regular sesame seeds mixed with some black ones for color. All black seeds would have looked better. I used more cayenne than the original recipe called for. Unfortunately, I omitted the pine nuts from the paste. I bought some, and then accidentally used all of them in another meal.
Overall, this was a quick, easy vegetarian meal that was more filling than it looked. The sesame paste was more flavorful than I expected, I normally consider sesame to be very overpowering, but I could taste the vinegar and cayenne pepper.
Black Sesame Otsu
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 teaspoon sunflower seeds (plus a little extra, I really like them)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (preferably black)
1.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp shoyu, tamari, or soy sauce (I used tamari)
1.5 tsp mirin
1.5 tsp sesame oil (I used 1 tsp, I think sesame oil is really overpowering)
1 tbsp rice vinegar (the original recipe calls for brown rice vinegar, which I don't have. I added a few extra splashes of vinegar)
dash of cayenne pepper (I used 1/8 tsp and then added extra later).
2 bunches of soba noodles
1/2 block extra firm tofu
3 or 4 green onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced.
1) Toast the sunflower seeds in a small pan until they smell toasted. Shake the pan frequently. The oil comes out of the seeds pretty quickly so if shaking doesn't work, use a spatula to stir. Add the sesame seeds and continue to shake or stir. Sesame seeds go from toasty to brunt pretty quickly, so watch the pan and smell the seeds. It should only take about a minute once you put the sesame seeds in the pan.
2) Transfer the seeds to a mini prep (I tried my mortar and pestle and decided it would be faster and easier just to use the mini prep) and process until the seeds have the texture of sand. Transfer to a bowl and add sugar, tamari, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and cayenne pepper. It was at this point that I tasted and added a little extra vinegar and cayenne pepper.
3) Cook the tofu. Don't make the mistakes I made. Drain the tofu and pat it dry. Consider pressing it. Cut the tofu into matchsticks and season with salt and olive oil. In a large skillet over medium heat, toss the tofu until it's browned on all sides.
4) Boil some water and add the soba noodles. Cook according to the package. Mine needed 4 minutes. Drain and rinse w/ cold water.
5) Reserve 1 Tbsp of sesame paste in a separate dish. While the noodles are cooking, take about 1/6 cup of the cooking water and mix it with the remaining sesame paste. I added a few extra splashes of water to make sure that the paste could evenly coat my noodles.
6) Toss the noodles with the sesame paste and water mixture and half the green onions. Then add the tofu and toss very carefully.
7) Serve in a bowl with the other half of the green onions and top with the reserved sesame paste.