This spicy Asian noodle salad is made with cold soba noodles and grilled shrimp. The dressing is full of fresh flavors from ginger, lime zest, cilantro, sesame, mint leaves and chili pepper. It’s a sweet, sour, salty and spicy appetizer!
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If I were to sum up this recipe is one word, it would be freshness. This salad is full of fresh and delicious spring flavors. It balances classic flavor combos like lime and cilantro and shrimp and noodles with Asian-inspired ingredients like fresh ginger and sesame. The dressing is loose and saucy and full of intense flavor. The lime zest gives it a delicious fragrance as well. Altogether this salad makes the perfect spring or summer appetizer or light dinner.
Why make this recipe:
- This salad is full of fresh and intensely flavorful ingredients and refined sugar-free.
- Even though there are a lot of ingredients involved here, this salad is very easy to make.
- The same ingredients that go into the marinade also go into the dressing, which means you only have to mix one batch and then simply divide it.
A few notes on some of the ingredients:
- Sesame oil: you will want to use toasted sesame oil in this recipe. Unlike untoasted sesame oil, which has an almost neutral flavor, toasted sesame oil adds a delicious, nutty sesame flavor. You can tell whether your sesame oil is toasted or not just by looking at it. Untoasted sesame oil is almost colorless, while toasted sesame oil has a deep amber color. (Note that toasted sesame oil often just says “sesame oil” on the bottle but if you look at the ingredient list on the back of the bottle it will say that it’s toasted.)
- Fresh Fresno chili pepper: as with ginger, thinly sliced Fresno chili pepper adds to the freshness of this salad. If you can’t get your hands on a Fresno chili pepper, I recommend substituting jalapeno. (NOTE: The insides of a Fresno chili pepper are quite spicy. Wash your hands well after handling the ribs and seeds of the pepper or wear disposable gloves.)
- Freshly grated ginger root: technically you could substitute ground ginger but I really don’t recommend that for this recipe. This salad is all about freshness and the juicy, fresh and aromatic fresh ginger is an important part of that.
- Finely chopped mint leaves: mint leaves add a fresh, cool flavor and fragrance to this salad. Please don’t be tempted to skip them.
- Soba noodles: be sure to rinse the cooked soba noodles thoroughly under cold water until they are completely cold. If you don’t do this, the excess starch on the outside of the noodles will cause them to clump together. It’ll be as if they were glued.
How to make it (overview with photos):
- Whisk together the dressing/marinade.
- Pour half of the mix into a bowl and marinate shrimp in it. Set aside the other half (this will be the dressing for the salad).
- Cook soba noodles.
- Grill shrimp, then mix with the noodles and the dressing.
How spicy is this dish?
The spiciness of this salad is determined by how much of the ribs and seeds of the Fresno chili pepper you leave on.
Red Fresno chili peppers are about as spicy as jalapeno peppers. Most of the heat of any pepper sits in the ribs (also called the pith) of the fruit. Since the seeds are touching the ribs, they pick up some heat from there as well. That means that the more ribs and seeds of the pepper you remove, the milder the dish gets.
Choose your own spice level:
If you completely remove the ribs and seeds of the Fresno chili pepper, this salad is mildly spicy. For more spiciness, leave a little bit of the ribs and seeds in the pepper.
I did a test to find out how much ribs and seeds yielded what level of spiciness. You can see the results in the table and the photos below and choose your own spice level.
|Amount of seeds and ribs removed:||Spiciness of the dish prepared with that pepper:|
|all the pepper’s ribs and seeds removed||mildly spicy|
|about ¾ of the pepper’s ribs and seeds removed||spicy|
|about ½ of the pepper’s ribs and seeds removed||very spicy|
|no ribs and seeds removed||CRAZY spicy and practically inedible for many people|
Can I make it ahead?
Yes. You can make all three components (the grilled shrimp, the dressing and the noodles) a few hours ahead and store each of them in a separate container in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve the salad, toss everything together and add the chopped mint leaves.
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Full Printable Recipe
Spicy Asian Noodle Salad with Grilled Shrimp
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
- zest of 1 lime
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ Fresno chili pepper,* finely chopped (remove all ribs and seeds unless you want the dish very spicy)
- ½ tablespoon sesame seeds
- ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil**
- 6 ounces raw shrimp (I like to use extra large or jumbo), thawed, peeled and deveined
- 4 ounces soba noodles, uncooked
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves (you need about 18 medium-large leaves or about three 4-inch sprigs with fully grown leaves for that)
- In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, cilantro, lime zest, garlic, honey, chili pepper, sesame oil and sesame seeds together until well combined.
- Pour half of the mix into a small bowl, add the shrimp to it, cover and marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge. Cover the liquid measuring cup with the remaining half of the mix and keep in the fridge as the salad dressing.
- Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. Drain the noodles, rinse them thoroughly under cold water, then set them aside.
- Take the shrimp out of their marinade and grill.***
- Mix the grilled shrimp into the soba noodles, drizzle with the dressing**** and sprinkle with the fresh mint.