MSR Backcountry Cafe: Soba Noodles With Wilted Greens & Spicy Peanut Sauce

Photo: Laurel Miller

Raise your hand if you’ve ever prepared Top Ramen on a camping trip. Raise both hands if you’ve ever been so famished that you’ve eaten them uncooked.

We’ve all been there. And with all due respect to the ubiquitous fried noodles, there are other, healthier options available—ones that won’t crumble to dust in your pack or add a heaping dose of MSG to your dinner. If you’re willing to allow for the additional prep and cooking time, you can throw together a pot of soba noodles dressed with a fiery peanut sauce in just 10 minutes.

dried soba noodles: kattebelletje, Flickr
dried soba noodles: kattebelletje, Flickr

These slender Japanese noodles are named after their main ingredient, buckwheat, which is a fruit seed related to rhubarb, rather than a cereal grain. Buckwheat is a good choice after an intense workout, as it’s high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, and iron, and contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as the bioflavonoid rutin.

Soba is traditionally served chilled with a dipping sauce, or added to hot soup. On a recent backpacking trip on Kauai’s Kalalau Trail, I combined the noodles with a peanut butter-based sauce for a high-protein meal. It’s an easy dinner that takes up little space and adds minimal weight to your pack; always my biggest consideration.

Prepare this recipe on your first day out, and you can add a fistful of bitter greens such as arugula or baby chard or kale to the bottom of each portion for added flavor and nutritional punch. Mix in a can of chickpeas for additional protein, heft, and texture.

Preparing the meal. Photo: Laurel Miller

Serves two

*one, 8-ounce package soba noodles

*2 packets instant miso soup (be sure to buy the kind that includes a separate packet of miso paste)

*3/4 cup creamy, no-stir peanut butter

*2 tablespoons soy sauce

*1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey

*2 teaspoons New Mexico red chile powder (this dissolves better and packs more of a wallop than red chile flakes, but use whatever you have on hand; cayenne also works)

*3 cloves garlic, minced or mashed to a paste

*Juice of one orange

*Salt, to taste—note that you’ll need very little, due to the miso and soy sauce

*Two large handfuls baby bitter greens, optional

>Prepare miso soup as directed on your campstove; make sure you use enough water to sufficiently cook the noodles, as the miso is being used as a flavoring agent rather than soup. When it reaches a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente. While noodles are cooking, add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar or honey, chile powder, garlic, and orange juice to a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Adjust seasoning as needed.

>Add greens to the bottom of each bowl. Drain noodles, reserving one cup of miso in a separate vessel; set aside. Add peanut sauce to noodles in pot, and toss until completely coated; add some of the reserved miso if necessary to thin sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve.

Soba cooked: This is Awkward, Flickr
Soba cooked: This is Awkward, Flickr

©The Sustainable Kitchen®, 2013.

Laurel Miller is a Colorado-based food and travel writer and cheese consultant, the co-author of Cheese for Dummies, and a contributing editor at culture: the word on cheese. She considers herself the vegan anti-Christ.

For more from Laurel Miller click here.