In times of lots of worry and little sleep, like most of us, I return to my comforts and staples: avocado toast, a great pot of meatballs, and as many ways as I can find to intersect noodles and eggs. While I am fairly certain I could live off this fiery, crunchy spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs for the rest of my life, as bits of spring have been in the air, I am always ready for fresh takes on cold noodles.
Flipping through Heidi Swanson’s wonderful Near & Far a few weeks ago, I became entranced with the cold soba salad in part for the ingredients but really it was the footnote at the end that stayed with me: “Serve topped with a poached egg or an omelet sliced into a whispery-thin chiffonade.” Whispery-thin chiffonade. Could anything be so lovely? I imagined the strands of eggs tangling with the strands of noodles, punctuated with a sesame-seed flecked sauce and crispy raw vegetables and I needed it in my life.
And then, as these things happen, a few days later I was clicking aimlessly around the web while I should have been, I don’t know, writing a cookbook or responding to email and fell down a summer ramen rabbit hole. Sure, we’re all about the ramen everywhere these days, but as the weather warms up in Japan ramen shops add a chilled ramen [Hiyashi Chuka Soba] to their menu, usually topped with, among other things, those ribboned eggs that charmed me. The dressing uses ground sesame seeds, sesame seed paste, vinegar and sesame oil, which you know means it will be amazing and the options for etceteras are as long as your imagination (or as deep as the odd-ends of your vegetable drawer go, though imitation crab, cucumbers and tomatoes are the most common). That said, dishes like this can get complicated quickly and we’re firing on fewer cylinders these days, so I attempted to hone in as much as possible on the eggs and the noodles. When it’s actually summer here, I’ll probably pile on more seasonal vegetables.
One year ago: Potatoes with Soft Eggs and Bacon Vinaigrette
Two years ago: Double Chocolate Banana Bread
Three years ago: Coconut Bread
Four years ago: Potato Knish, Two Ways
Five years ago: Sally Lunn Bread and Honeyed Brown Butter Spread
Six years ago: Breakfast Pizza
Seven years ago: Migas with Tomato Chipotle Coulis
Eight years ago: Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
Nine years ago: Italian Bread
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Zucchini Rice and Cheese Gratin
1.5 Years Ago: Cauliflower Slaw
2.5 Years Ago: Fudgy Chocolate Sheet Cake
3.5 Years Ago: Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake
4.5 Years Ago: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
- I know I sound like a broken record, but I would love to convince you to always toast your nuts and seeds before using them. For sesame seeds, you can do these in a skillet over low heat but you must watch it like a hawk and stir often because once they start picking up color, they go from golden to brown very quickly. This time I did it in a 350 degree oven, stirring every 5 minutes (I also go ahead and do the whole jar, so I have them for the next time). It took longer but the flavor was off the charts. When I ground the seeds, the whole apartment smelled nutty and wonderful.
- The water in the omelet ribbons may sound odd, but I found the final texture of the eggs a bit softer and more apt to ribbon without breaking with it. If you’d like, you can use mirin (sweet wine) instead of water, and skip the sugar.
- I love using soba (buckwheat) noodles here but ramen noodles are more traditional, and most rice noodles or rice “sticks” are gluten-free. You can make this a vegan dish by omitting the egg ribbons.
Serves 4 for dinner
4 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons soy sauce (use low-sodium for a less salty sauce)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon tahini
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar, or more to taste
Chili sesame oil to taste
Neutral cooking oil, to coat skillet
3 large eggs
3 teaspoons water
A few pinches sugar
A few pinches salt
1 9.5-ounce package buckwheat soba noodles
Raw vegetables of choice (we used julienned carrots, cucumbers and radishes, plus some snipped chives on top, which have recently reappeared in my garden!)
Make the dressing: Put the toasted sesame seeds into a blender or food processor and run the machine until the seeds look like wet sand — it will take a couple minutes. Add the water, soy sauce, tahini, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, salt and chili sesame oil and blend until combined. Taste and adjust ingredients to your preferences.
Make the omelet ribbons: Whisk eggs with water, sugar and salt until well-blended and even in color. Heat a 10-inch skillet (I really like using a nonstick here and for other crepe-like things) over medium and coat very lightly with cooking oil. Pour in 1/3 of mixture, which will be enough to coat the pan very thinly. (If your pan is bigger or smaller, use less or more accordingly per batch, the goal is to keep the egg very thin.) Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the egg has set and the edges look dry. Carefully flip* the omelet and cook for 20 to 30 seconds on second side. Flip egg out onto paper towel to blot oil and repeat 2 more times.
Stack the three omelets together and roll them into a log. Use a sharp knife to slice the roll into very thin ribbons, thinner even than you see in my photos.
Cook the noodles: In well-salted water until tender but firm for the time recommended on your package of noodles, usually 4 to 5 minutes. Drain noodles and run cold water over them to cool. Drain again, shaking out excess water.
To serve: My favorite way for a family meal is to put everything out in separate dishes and let each of us assemble to taste. (Or, if you’re this one, grab the bowl of egg ribbons and help yourself.) Or, you can toss the noodles with about half the sauce, then arrange it in a bowl with the omelet ribbons on top, followed by your vegetables. Garnish with extra sesame seeds and serve with additional sauce on the side.
* One day, when I have video on this site, I will demonstrate my crepe-flipping “method” for you but hopefully this will help until then: I use two thin spatulas (such as offset icing spatulas or a flexible fish spatula). The first smaller one goes under the edge and lifts the omelet/crepe enough that I can hold the second larger spatula in my other hand and slide it under enough that it goes past the center of the omelet/crepe. From here, it’s easier to flip without tearing.