This soba stir fry has chewy buckwheat noodles, savory sauce and plenty of crunchy vegetables, making it the perfect summer meal for hot weather!
One quick disclaimer – this stir fry isn’t going to be authentically Japanese, but more a sum of its parts (soba + stir fried veggies), so continue at your own discretion.
Most of these ingredients should (hopefully) be self-explanatory, but let's dive a bit deeper into the soba.
Soba, or Japanese noodles made from buckwheat, are super chewy and have a nutty flavor. They can be served in a stir fry like this one, or served in a more soupy application.
(Shoutout to Fukada’s cold sansai soba with mountain vegetables that I dream of whenever I’m not in Southern California).
One thing to note about soba is that they get very starchy during the cooking process, so it’s necessary to rinse the cooked soba off with fresh, cold water. This also firms up the noodles so they’re bouncy and chewy when you bite into them.
How to Make
Start by pan-frying the tofu until as crispy as you’d like.
Then, cook the soba according to package instructions. Drain off the cooking water and rinse the soba under cold water.
Stir fry all the vegetables, starting with the vegetables that take longer to soften and ending with the most delicate ones (in this case, I wanted to cook the onion the longest and the bell pepper the least).
Combine the soba, vegetables and a few different seasonings (my usual staples of soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce and sesame oil), then serve with the pan-fried tofu, sesame seeds and green onion!
The tofu doesn’t have to be perfectly golden brown and crispy for this recipe, even though that is the ultimate goal. A few tips and tricks to help you get as close as possible:
- Use a non-stick pan. Even if you use a ton of oil in a pan without a non-stick coating, the tofu sticks a lot, and you lose the crispy edge to the pan.
- Patience is key. Let each side get deeply golden (no pale blond here please).
- Pan-fry as many sides as you like. I typically do the four biggest sides, though anyone with an abundance of patience can do all six.
- Serve the tofu on top. This keeps the tofu as crispy as possible so that it doesn’t soften in the sauce too much.
Obviously cook the vegetables to your desired doneness. That being said, I like to cut them fairly small and cook them quickly so that you’re not hunched over the stove for forever, and the veggies stay crunchy.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to a week in a covered container.
You can reheat them in the microwave or the stove. I wouldn’t recommend eating it straight from the fridge, since the soba can be a bit stiff, and warming it up softens the noodles.
The beauty of this recipe is that any vegetable works, and I mean any vegetable. I was in the mood for something on that felt fresher and lighter when I made this, but if you want to use cooked leafy greens or soft, tender eggplant, that’s completely fine too.
Should you need or prefer to make this vegetarian, substitute the fish sauce for extra soy sauce. It won’t have the exact same taste, since fish sauce adds a lot of richness, so I’d really recommend making sure you use mushrooms to make up for some of that loss.
I used pan-fried tofu here, though you can use baked tofu or aburaage (the fried tofu skins typically used for inari) instead. So long as it’s not super soft tofu that will crumble immediately upon being mixed with the other ingredients, you’re good to use it.
Fish cake or scrambled egg sound like they’d be tasty substitutes for the tofu (I might be thinking along somen salad lines, but hey, they’re good lines).
Meat is also fine; maybe strips of char siu from the local barbecue meat shop, or bits of panfried chicken thigh both sound delicious if you’re into that kind of thing.
Yes, this is a soba stir fry.
That being said, if you have another kind of noodle on hand (knife cut noodles, glass noodles, udon, heck even instant ramen or spaghetti), that would also work.
I’d use the same amount of noodles, though something like udon which is thicker and has less surface area might not soak up the sauce the same way that soba does.
- 1 pound firm tofu cubed
- 1 bundle soba 100g or 3.5 oz
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 carrot peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 sticks celery chopped
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- ½ bell pepper chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 green onion chopped
Heat half of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu in a single layer, being careful in case the water in the tofu splatters, then sprinkle salt all over the tofu. Cook the tofu on each side until golden brown (I usually cook 4 of the sides and call it a day). Move the tofu to a plate and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the soba and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the soba (you can save the cooking water and drink it like buckwheat tea), then rinse under cold water. Set aside.
Return the skillet to medium heat, then add the rest of the oil. Add the onion and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Then add the garlic, carrots and celery. Cook for 5 minutes to soften, then add the mushrooms. Cook for a few more minutes, until the carrots and celery are still crunchy but more tender than raw. Add the bell peppers and cook until barely softened.
Add the soba, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and fish sauce to the vegetables, and toss until everything is coated.
Dish up the stir fry, top with the tofu, sesame seeds and green onion, then serve!
Make sure to rinse the soba in cold water. This helps the soba become chewier, and also rinses off any extra starch that could make the soba gummy.
Feel free to mix and match the vegetables and protein according to your preferences and what you have on hand.