Very flavorful, easy to make and satisfying dish.
Recently, I have been feeling a bit uninspired in my culinary explorations. I get that feeling about once a year, when all the holidays are finally over and a lot of produce is blah tasting. That’s when I look for inspiration in various cookbooks. So, while ago on a rainy afternoon (yes, we got some rain this year) I pulled out my “Cook’s Illustrated” and looked through a section with Asian recipes. Confession: I think I can consider myself a “food hoarder” of non-perishable/long shelf life food items. My pantry and freezer (although pretty small) are full of random and seemingly unrelated items. It is because I read a lot of recipes and whenever I come across an ingredient that was listed in an interesting recipe, I will buy it. So, when I read today’s recipe I had most ingredients on hand. The only thing that was missing was a mirin, which is a sweet, cooking rice wine. Turns out, it can be substituted by using white wine and a bit of sugar.
You need a lot of mushrooms, which provide the umami flavor in this recipe. Use shiitake and brown criminis for a deep flavor. Even a portobello mushroom will be great, too. Just remove the brown gills using a spoon. As far as greens, spinach, kale and mustard greens are all great choices. The recipe calls for udon noodles, which are thick noodles made out of wheat flour. They are a staple in Japanese cuisine and supposedly help with digestion, weight management, colon cancer prevention and stress reduction. Whole wheat flour is a source of complex carbs, which are slowly digested and won’t cause a big sugar spike like simple carbs.
The best udon noodles are the fresh ones but I haven’t seen these anywhere. The second choice is the frozen ones that can be found in many Asian markets and these are the kind I buy. Haven’t tried the dried ones yet.
Start by preparing a very flavorful, umami-loaded broth. Slice mushrooms and add them into the chicken broth along with rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil. Throw in a 1-inch long piece of ginger and few crushed garlic cloves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until it gets reduced by about half, 10-13 minutes.
While the broth simmers, cook the noodles according to the directions. Drain and set aside.
When it comes to greens, you can use a variety here. The sturdier greens, like kale, mustard greens or white ends of Bok choy, require longer cooking time. Add them about 5 minutes into the cooking time. Green ends of Bok choy and baby spinach should be added at the very end of cooking.
When the broth is almost reduced in half, add 1-2 teaspoons of sambal olek. It is currently my favorite spicy condiment I add to many dishes. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, if needed. It should taste sweet, spicy, salty with a good dose of umami flavor, coming from the mushrooms.
Divide the noodles between the bowls and add the hot broth. I like it hot but it’s also great at room temperature (I learned it when there was no power in my office and I was starving!).
Serves: 2-4 Prep time: 15 minutes Ready in: 30 minutes
- 8-10 oz. shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, caps sliced
- 6 oz brown crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (if you can find enoki or brown beech mushrooms, use them as well)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup mirin or white wine and 1 Tbs sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 3-4 large garlic cloves, slightly crushed
- 1.5-2-inch piece of ginger, halved alongside
- 1/2-1 teaspoon sambal olek or other garlic-chili sauce
- salt, pepper
- baby spinach, chopped mustard greens, Bok choy (green parts separated from white ones), chopped kale
- 14-16 ozs udon noodles, fresh or frozen, cooked according to directions, drained
- In a large pot combine chicken broth, mushrooms, rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and sambal olek. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 2/3, about 15-20 minutes.
- Cook udon noodles and set aside.
- During the last 5 minutes of broth’s cooking time, add the tougher greens (white parts of Bok choy, kale, mustard greens). If using only spinach, add the leaves at the very end as well as green parts of Bok choy, if using.
- Adjust seasonings. Divide the noodles among the plates and add the broth with greens and mushrooms. Serve.
Recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated.