When the Hawaii economy took a downturn for the worse, the DOE cut back by not providing meals at workshops and trainings. While some people were saddened by the lack of opportunity for a meal on the DOE's dime, I certainly wasn't. Although free to the participant, the meals usually consisted of tasteless food. I was working out of a Honolulu-based office at the time, and what we did was pool our $ together and have lunch catered for us or had a potluck.
Pooling $ together was great in Honolulu because of the wide range of places that were willing to cater or provide a bento. Hilo doesn't have nearly the range of choices as Honolulu, so what we end up doing is having potluck. Everyone brings something to share. In spite of not being told what to bring, things always seem to work out.
Soba Salad is something which invariably can be found at most potlucks. Soba Salad is a variation on Somen Salad. Boiled Japanese noodles are cooled and topped with things like fish cake and vegetables. A shoyu-based sauce is poured over just before eating.. Soba is Japanese buckwheat noodles. It is easily identified by its gray-brown color. Soba noodles can be purchased at any supermarket (even Wal-Mart and Target).
I used hijiki, wakame, watercress, kaiware (daikon sprouts), uzumaki (rolled pinwheel fishcake which is likely known as narutomaki outside of Hawaii), and shredded red pickled ginger to top my soba, but I've had versions which contained imitation crab shreds, taegu shreds, maui onion, cucumber, and ocean salad. The idea is to use whatever you have on hand. This is especially refreshing on a hot day.
click on recipe title for printable recipe
1/2 c hijiki
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp shoyu
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 oz wakame (this will seem like just a little)
1 bunch watercress, trimmed and cut into 1" lengths
4 oz kaiware, root ends cut off
1 roll uzumaki, slivered
2 tbsp red shredded pickled ginger
16 oz dried soba noodles
3/4 c vegetable oil
3/4 c shoyu
3/4 c lemon juice
5 tbsp sugar
Soak hijiki in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes. While hijiki is soaking, combine dressing ingredients in a jar. Shake well and set aside. Drain water from hijiki, and press out as much water as possible without mashing hijiki. In a small skillet, heat 3 tbsp oil. Add hijiki, 3 tbsp shoyu, and 3 tbsp sugar. Cook until liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool. In a small bowl, soak wakame in a bowl of cold water for 7 minutes. Drain, pressing out as much water as possible. Set aside. Boil soba noodles for 6-7 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well. In a 9 x 13" pan or other comparable flat dish, arrange soba in an even layer. Top with hijiki, kaiware, watercress, wakame, uzumaki, and pickled ginger. Pour dressing over entire salad just before serving.
As an alternative, served dressing alongside salad, allowing guests to dress their salads individually. If doing this, make 1 1/2 or 2 quantities of dressing.