Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kelp Noodles

I was at Whole Foods recently, searching in vain for Ohana House Buckwheat Soba--apparently the company has been bought out and its product scrapped, in favor of an inferior version. The new soba are not 100% buckwheat, but mostly wheat, with other undesirable ingredients. Just like when you finally get a pair of shoes that work for you and they stop making them!

Anyway, as I scanned the shelves in dismay and disbelief, I came across a rather intriguing new item in the noodle world: kelp noodles, made with green tea. Always a silver lining. These noodles have have nothing  in common with the ones I was looking for (beyond their shape), but of course I had to try them.

The ingredients listed are simple enough: water, sodium, alginate, kelp, green tea. The "sodium" sounds a little suspect, but everything else seems straightforward--the kelp and green tea supply the good stuff (nutrients, antioxidants) and the alginate (a natural extract of brown algae) holds the product together. It's possible that this is in fact sodium alginate (the comma in the list being a typo), with the same properties, used in molecular gastronomy to produce "spherification" of liquids. 

The noodles themselves are a bit on the crunchy side and nearly flavorless, but they do make an interesting ingredient in salads. I threw a quick salad together for my first flirtation with this odd noodle, and it worked much better than I initially figured it would.

After rinsing the noodles (as directed), I cut them into manageable lengths and combined them with grated carrot, thinly sliced celery, celery leaves, and sliced scallions. I used a classic Japanese oil-free dressing, made with kombu dashi, tamari, brown rice vinegar and mirin. A scattering of sesame seeds completed the dish. Believe it or not, it was hugely successful!

I do have a call in to the corporate pirates who raided Ohana House, to see if they still produce and market the original 100% buckwheat soba I had fallen in love with (and where I might find them).  I'll put up a post about this if good news comes back...

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