CIBI Soba Salad Recipe

Japanese husband-and-wife team Meg and Zenta Tanaka set up CIBI (meaning ‘little one’) in Melbourne a decade ago, with a second opening in Tokyo last year. The cafe and concept store draws a hip crowd who come for the strong coffee, seasonal home cooking and Japanese design. The shop stocks a great selection of Japanese products – the children’s toys are particularly lovely with tin express trains and paper balloon gold fish.

Credit: Mark Roper

Last week the pair launched their first cookbook, CIBI, in London. Full of tempting photographs, you instantly want to get cooking – the joy of the recipes being that the ingredients lists are short and feature mostly Western produce. For example there’s a Japanese caprese salad made with tomato, tofu, cucumber and daikon, and a recipe for a simple Japanese omelette that’s cooked in a square pan with a little added mirin. Here we share one of CIBI’s most popular dishes, the Soba Salad:


We have been serving our soba salad since we opened CIBI in 2008. When I created this dish, I wanted to add a touch of western flavour so that it became a cafe-like dish as well as a CIBI dish. Many of our regulars come in just for this salad. This is a simpler version that you can cook at home anytime. All you really need in your cupboard is soba noodles, soy sauce and lemon!


30 g (1 oz, or 10 x 10 cm/4 x 4 in) Japanese bean curd

200 g (7 oz, about 2 bunches) dried soba noodles

2 handfuls mixed salad leaves

90 g (3 oz, around 6) cherry tomatoes, halved

½ avocado, cubed

1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion (scallion)

1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1½ tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon tamari


100 g (3½ oz) pitted green olives,

finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive brine

juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


1 To make the olive relish, combine the olives, olive brine, lemon juice and oil in a bowl. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste and mix well.

2 To make the soba dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl with 50 ml (1¾ fl oz) water and mix well.

3 Drain the bean curd and rinse it with hot water to remove any excess oil. Dry it lightly with paper towel. Pan-fry both sides in a frying pan over a low–medium heat until light brown and crispy. Remove it from the pan and let it cool, then slice it into 1 x 5 cm (½ x 2 in) rectangles.

4 Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the soba noodles and cook, following the packet instructions, until they are just al dente. Drain the noodles and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process and wash off excess gluten. This will help give the noodles a nice texture.

5 Arrange the salad leaves on plates.

6 In a large bowl, combine the noodles, tomatoes, avocado, bean curd, spring onion, sesame seeds and dressing and mix well. Top the salad on each plate with a helping of the noodle mixture. Garnish each with 1 teaspoon of the olive relish and serve the rest of the relish on the side.


Cibi: Simple Japanese-inspired meals to share with family and friends by Meg and Zenta Tanaka (Hardie Grant £22) Photography: Mark Roper

— Daisy Allsup
11th July 2018