I love a steaming bowl of noodles. Dunk them in a zesty sauce or broth on a dark and stormy night, and you have achieved balance in the universe. All annoyances seem to melt away as I crouch, a little protectively, over a bowl of carbohydrate comfort and therapeutic steam.
Several things came together before I got the idea to make this spicy, brothy noodle bowl this week. Not the least of these was a cold and rainy day that made way to a downright miserable evening. I was also inspired by the bundle of spicy “braising” greens in our CSA box this week. I’m not sure what all of the greens were in this mix, but I know there was arugula, mustard greens and possibly tatsoi and/or mizuna. Many of these are associated with Asian cooking, so I made them into a soup with shiitake mushrooms, rice stick noodles, and a flavorful broth.
Most of the work for this recipe goes into preparing the stock, but that’s okay because the stock does most of the work in this dish. I based it on a recipe for “Stock for Stir Fries” in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I had to adapt it for what I had on hand, leaving out and substituting for a few ingredients, but the results were still hugely flavorful. It does contain a few things that might not be in every pantry, such as kombu (seaweed) and mirin (a sweet rice wine), but these kinds of things are getting easier to find in stores if you’re interested in trying them.
The stock can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated, or even further ahead and frozen. Once it is ready, the rest of the soup comes together fairly quickly. I made it a little on the hot-and-sour side, but you could cut down on the chile sauce if you like things milder. You could use just about any greens you like for this soup, but I think it is especially good with spicy ones. You don’t have to go especially exotic, since arugula and even radish greens would work. If you want it mild, I think you could use bok choy leaves, spinach or chard.
I’m terrible at eating with chopsticks, but I keep trying because they, along with a spoon for the broth, are just the right tools for delivering long noodles to hungry lips. I might just have to get more practice soon, since I have some greens, noodles, and shiitake mushrooms left and could make another pot of this soup. Anyway, whether you’re talented or uncoordinated with chopsticks, slurping is allowed.
Noodle Bowl with Spicy Greens
For the stock
Based on a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
5 dried shiitake mushroom caps
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large rib celery, sliced
½ cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
2 slices ginger, about 1/8 inch (a few mm) thick
1 piece kombu about 6 inches (about 15 cm) long
1 tablespoon (15 ml) soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 ½ teaspoons (about 7.5 ml) salt
7 cups (1.75 l) cold water
1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil moderately, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the mushroom caps. Set aside 3 caps to use in the soup. (Reserve the remaining 2 for another recipe.) Continue cooking the stock at a moderate boil for 20 minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Strain the solids from the stock. Measure the liquid and add water to make 4 cups (1 liter) if necessary.
For the rest or the soup
8 ounces (250 g) rice stick noodles, or other long noodles you like
1 tablespoon (15 ml) peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
½ small onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces (125 g) mixed spicy or Asian greens (such as arugula, bok choy leaves, mustard greens, radish leaves, tatsoi, mizuna, etc.)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) soy sauce
3 tablespoons (45 ml) rice vinegar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) Asian chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) dark sesame oil, divided
Chopped or julienned garnishes, such as radishes, cilantro, scallions, etc. (I used julienned radishes.)
1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. (For most types of noodles, you can cook them while preparing the rest of the recipe.) Drain and set aside.
2. Thinly slice the 3 mushroom caps reserved while making the stock. Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté about 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and lightly browned.
4. Add the greens and cook until they have completely wilted down, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the stock and sliced shiitake mushrooms and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil moderately for 10 minutes.
6. Stir in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile sauce. Remove from the heat.
7. To serve, divide the noodles evenly among 4 bowls. Ladle about 1 cup (250 ml) soup over each bowl of noodles. Drizzle ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) sesame oil over each serving. Garnish as desired.
Makes 4 servings.
Other recipes like this one: Noodles with Cilantro, Green Onions and Peanuts; Peanutty Noodles
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