Sweet onion and soba salad with fat-free umeboshi dressing


We still haven't found a house to buy (though we may getting close), and due to the way things work in France, we are probably going to be nomads for at least 4 more months even if we put in an offer for a place tomorrow. I've gotten more used to cooking in tiny holiday home kitchens, but I'm still not up to anything too complicated - or in other words anything that requires the use of more than 2 burners at a time.

Fortunately it's now summer, which means lighter, less complicated meals anyway. This salad, which can be a meal on its own, a starter or a light side dish, features sweet salad onions (spring is the season for them, at least around these parts), sliced paper-thin and refreshed in ice cold water. The tart dressing features umeboshi (pickled plums) and uses no oil, so this is an almost fat-free, fairly low calorie dish, that's vegan to boot.

Recipe: Sweet onion and soba salad with umeboshi dressing

For 4 starter sized portions or 2 main dish portions

For the dressing:

  • 7 Tbs. (or 1/2 U.S. cup minus 1 Tbs.) vegan dashi, or the same amount of water with 1/2 tsp. of konbu seaweed based or (for non-vegetarians) bonito-based dashi stock granules
  • 4 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • About 3-4 umeboshi, or enough to make 1 Tbs. ume paste
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce

For the salad:

  • 1 200g (about 7oz) pack of soba noodles
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet onions (see notes)
  • 4-5 green shiso leaves
  • romaine or cos lettuce leaves

To make the dressing:

Take the pits out of the umeboshi, and chop the pulp up finely. You should have about 1 tablespoon of ume pulp. (If you can find something called 'ume paste', which is pureed umeboshi, you can use that to save some time.)

Put all the ingredients into a jar and close the lid tightly. Shake vigorously to combine. Refrigerate until you are ready to use it. (It will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator.)

To make the salad:

  • Slice the onion as thinly as you can manage. Put the slices in a bowl of ice water.
  • Bring a pot of water to the boil, and cook the soba noodles following the detailed instructions here. The rinsing stage is very important here, otherwise the soba noodles will become gummy!
  • Shred the lettuce leaves - you should have enough for about 1 cup per plate. (Alternatively you can just line the plates with whole leaves, but I prefer to shred it.)
  • Finely shred the shiso leaves.

To assemble:

  • Line each plate with the lettuce.
  • Mount the soba noodles on top.
  • Drain the onion slices and pat them dry with kitchen towels. Mound on top of the soba noodles. Top with a sprinkling of the shiso leaves.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad, making sure everyone has an equal amount of the umeboshi bits.
  • Each diner should then mix the salad thoroughly before eating.


You can make all the components in advance, and assemble the salad as you're about to serve it.

While this is a vegan salad, the flavors go very well with grilled meat or sausages. For a lighter version, omit the soba and just make a salad of the onions and lettuce.

To make this a complete one-dish vegan meal, top it with tofu cubes, and optionally increase the soy sauce in the dressing to 3 tablespoons. For a fun and so not vegan variation, top with crispy bacon bits, and/or slices of poached chicken breast.

The onions

Around these parts sweet white onions are sold as 'oignons doux'. You can see them at the markets in big bunches like these.

Spring Onions

In the U.S. look for varieties like Vidalia, Walla Walla and Maui.

By putting them in ice water, you do get rid of much of the 'oniony-ness' that makes you somewhat pungent, but you may want to avoid eating this salad just before a job interview or blind date, to be on the safe side.

Filed under:  japanese lighter vegetarian summer noodles vegan salad soba

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Looks and sounds delicious - just the thing for the coming hot weather!

Perfect for summer and I have a jar of umeboshi and need ideas how to use them. Will surely go for your suggestion.

By the way, I have tried to plant the shiso but the seeds have not germinated for days, any tips or advice? Are they difficult to grow. The seeds were given from my friend where she found from an Asian store in Basel.

Shiso does take some time to germinate. Give it a few more days...maybe up to 3 weeks or so, keep it moist, and see if any seedlings emerge. If nothing sprouts in a month after planting, the seeds may have been too old or something.

This looks amazing! Any idea what salad onions are called here in the UK?

I'm not sure...but they could be called sweet onions, white onions, or something like that. Or salad onions... Red onions can be used instead.

I think (correct me if I'm wrong, Maki!) you'd be okay using the type of salad onions which look like spring onions or scallions but have HUGE fat white bulbs, and just use the bulb part, not the green. You do see them in supermarkets, and the green needn't go to waste, it can always be shredded for other dishes.
Another thing which is nice for onions is to put them in a little sushi seasoning vinegar or rice wine vinegar with some soy sauce, mirin and umeboshi paste. Just soaked in this dressing for a few moments the onions lose some of their sharpness, and make a great salad topping. I love umeboshi flavour in salad dressings!

You could use those onions (in German they called Silberzweibel), though they are young onions rather than an onion type that is specifically bred to be sweet. I think that red onions, which are generally sweeter, might be a better substitute if you cannot get a hold of sweet onions.

Hi. Wish you luck on the house. Summertime is such an expensive time to shop for a house in France. Especially with the crisis....

We'll be looking for French house number 2 this winter :)

The expensive part is the holiday home rental (though we were very lucky to score some great deals there), but the prices are really coming down a lot...so in that sense I guess it's not a bad time to be shopping. Then again, there's a nagging thought in my mind that prices are going to come down even more... these are certainly interesting times, to say the least.

My husband and I are also buying a house and the thing that we really find confidence in is that even if the market is not at absolute bottom right now we will be okay in the long run. If you plan on living in your home for 5-10 years, like we do, the market will have time to recover enough to make your investment now worth while even if the market does not recover immediately. There is no knowing when the absolute bottom will hit or if it has all ready bottomed out.

Thanks for sharing your recepies with patience and love.

Found your blog by chance in Google - Gluhwein for the cold winter evenings. Can't stop reading - a week already. Haven't start with the cooking yet. Classic Sukiyaki - never done it myself, but brought from Europe to Australia my real Japanese sukiyaki pot, bought in Japan. A festive stack of crêpes is another great idea. I make it with mayonnese lightened with yoghurt, gherkins, ham ... You have rich experience in multinational cusines. A Proper Swiss Cheese Fondue is the best recepie for fondue I came across. Drunk Chicken Wings ...

I wish you to find your dream house, which to call home, with a big and cosy kitchen of course.

I'm glad you enjoy the site :) My dream is to have a kitchen big enough to invite tons of people in to sit around and chat and nibble :)

A recipe for cold soba salad - perfect for such weather !
As much as I love my favorite recipes for noodle salads, it's nice to have a change and try a different way -and using umeboshi like that sounds amazing.

Even nicer, for once I have all the ingredients waiting in my fridge...
(Huhu, I must admit it's a pleasant side-effect of having your favorite food blogger staying around your area - roughly the same products available. note to self: egocentric much?)

Hi! I live in Alaska, and while I can sometimes find umeboshi, shiso is out. Is there anything else that can be substituted? Love your blogs, great work, thanks!

You can try substituting fresh basil or parsley. Neither is like shiso, but will give their own flavor. Or, try chopped green onion just for the color (though it will be more onion).

I made this yesterday, Maki! WONDERFUL!!!! It will definitely become a weekly staple in our recipes for the week. My four year old daughter had seconds! What a great combination. I used Mexican White onions and they were perfectly crunchy and not strong at all!
Thank you for the recipe! I love your blog! Regards from California! Akiko

Oh hello from Paris!
I dont know where you were hunting for houses, certainly you ve already found one, I hope? the real estate will be back on full speed by the end of next spring or so I heard. It s still crazy to get a house here even during crisis!

I only discovered this site through a LJ community today and I ve been surfing (and drooling) through your recipes, got plenty of tips! I will try to make nabe and dango this weekend! hopefully they will come out alright.

I never found fresh shiso leaves in Paris!