Summer in Japan can be pretty brutal—hot and extremely humid. Despite the feeling of being smothered in a heavy wet blanket every time you go outside, I still love summers in Japan. One of the reasons is because of the matsuri, summer festivals that are full of music, dancing, and of course, food. Food stalls are set up in long rows and offer everything from grilled fish on sticks to shaved ice doused in colorful sweet syrups. One of my favorite matsuri foods is yakisoba, Japanese stir-fried noodles. Although soba usually means thin, spaghetti-like noodles made from buckwheat flour, this dish actually uses ramen-style noodles which are stir-fried along with pork and vegetables and tossed in a sweet and savory sauce.
I decided to whip up a version that includes carrots, red onion, savoy cabbage, garlic, and ginger, but instead of adding pork, topping the noodles with fresh avocado at the end.
The avocado provides the rich fattiness that the pork normally provides, but sits a bit lighter in your tummy.
Traditionally the finished noodles are topped with a variety of garnishes, like seaweed that has been crushed into a powder, pickled ginger, katsuobushi (fish flakes), and mayonnaise. You could try some of these garnishes, or keep it simple with a sprinkling of thinly sliced scallions. Embrace the heat, invite some friends over, fire up the barbecue and serve everything up with a side of yakisoba. This weather won’t last forever!
Veggie Yakisoba with California Avocado Recipe
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
2 packages fresh yakisoba noodles (approximately 7 to 8 ounces each, varies slightly depending on the brand)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup mirin
3 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil, plus additional oil as needed
½ medium carrot (about 2 ounces), peeled and cut into small strips
½ red onion, vertically sliced
¼ savoy cabbage (about 10 ounces), cored and shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 ripe, Fresh California Avocados, seeded, peeled, cut into thin slices, then halved
3 scallions, thinly sliced
- Heat and separate the noodles according to the package directions. Set aside.
- Combine the ketchup, mirin, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil in a small bowl, then set aside.
- Heat the grapeseed oil in a large sauté pan or work over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onions and stir-fry from 1 minute, then add the cabbage and continue to stir-fry until the veggies have softened. While cooking, drizzle in additional grapeseed oil as needed.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the noodles to the pan and toss to combine, then add the ketchup mixture and stir constantly until everything is well coated, most of the liquid has evaporated, and everything is heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, top with avocado slices and scallions, and serve immediately.