The other day, I accidentally went to Flushing, Queens.
From Bayside, Queens, which is really far away from Prospect Heights, I got on a Q27 bus in the wrong direction. Twenty-four years of life in New York is apparently not enough to inoculate against public transit mishaps.
In Flushing sits one of the city’s three Chinatowns. I had long wanted to visit. But as I already said, it’s far from home. Now that I was here, albeit accidentally, I decided to make the most of my afternoon, despite it being snowy and there being work waiting for me back in Brooklyn. First stop: enormous supermarket.
In addition to the inexpensive produce, my favorite shelves were these two: curry mixes and hundreds of ramen in a million flavors.
In the end, I bought a big pack of soba noodles, another pack of rice noodles, and a beautiful Napa cabbage that cost 99 cents. Before I boarded the 7 train, I also bought some pork and chive dumplings at Zhu Ji, on Serious Eats’ recommendation.
Then I went home and I put my Flushing booty in my vegetable drawer and messier-by-the-day pantry and forgot about the noodles and the cabbage. Luckily, Napa cabbage is hearty. This is how it looked a week in, when I finally decided to stir-fry it with onion and soba and douse the rich sautéed cabbage in my favorite noodle sauce made from soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.
You can eat this dish warm as an easy dinner for one or cold or at room temperature for lunch. A big batch would make a delightful pasta salad at a barbecue.
And–little known fact–if you add an extra tablespoon of oil when you’re sautéing the cabbage it’ll turn the dish into slightly greasy but mostly healthful hangover food.
Stir-Fried Napa Cabbage with Soba and Soy-Sesame Sauce
Serves 1 generously or 2 more meagerly
This dish is gluten-free if you buy soba noodles made only with buckwheat.
4 ounces soba noodles
1 tablespoon safflower or other neutral oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 a medium Napa cabbage, sliced very thin (about 2 cups)
1 small clove garlic, crushed/minced/grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the noodles. Cook them according to package directions, or til al dente. In my case, the package was in Chinese so I guessed at about 4 minutes, which seemed fine. Drain the noodles and run under cold water. Drain again.
Meanwhile, heat a wok or cast iron pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil, then add the onion and cabbage. Stir-fry, tossing constantly, for five minutes until the vegetables are wilted. Add garlic, cook for 1 more minute, then add the noodles, toss, and turn off the heat.
Stir together the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the soba and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Toss, then taste for balance of flavors, adding a little more soy sauce, sugar, oil, or vinegar as needed
Serve warm or at room temperature.