14 January 2013
New year's ramen noodles with oyster mushrooms and cabbage
John and I really like noodles. Our pantry has prominently featured an assortment of noodles, from somen to rice sticks to soba, for years on end. We also live in an area with a preponderance of ethnic foods available. Why, then, are we just now starting to cook with fresh Asian noodles?
An excellent question.
So we went to our closest big Asian market and stared at all the fresh noodles in the case, wondering what to try first. It turned out that we wanted ramen. So we bought a pack of four wodges of fresh ramen noodles and brought them home, where they disappeared in short order. Several days later, I went back and got a pack of eight wodges of fresh ramen. Half have vanished so far. If this trend continues, we're going to be buried in fresh Asian noodles for months on end. Are you ready?
You may be familiar with dried ramen in instant soup form; fresh ramen is not even vaguely similar. Instead of being overly salty, either too crunchy or too mushy, and awkward to eat, it's perfectly chewy and silky and amazing for slurping up. You want some of this ramen.
I went simple to start, with ramen and vegetables in broth. This soup is perfect for January--clear and hot and spicy, with fragrant herbs and onions and pepper assailing your sinuses. It's an amazing (not to mention vegan) alternative to the traditional flu season chicken noodle.
This is exceptionally easy to make. All you really need is twenty minutes and a pantry stocked with the right seasonings. And if you do have the flu, it also helps to have someone else cook it for you. I'm just saying.
Fresh ramen noodles in broth with oyster mushrooms and cabbage
peanut oil/veg oil of your choice
green cabbage (standard, Chinese, savoy, or sub bok choy et al)
optional soft tofu
soy sauce, mirin, sriracha sauce or sambal oelek, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil
black pepper & cilantro to finish
If you need to make vegetable broth, start with that. Also, put a separate pan of water on to boil for your noodles. It can sit on the back burner until you're ready to cook them.
In a soup pot of your choice, warm a slug of peanut oil. Add minced garlic, sliced white of green onion (keep the greens for garnish), and minced ginger.
Slice or mince a hot pepper and add it to the pan, including the seeds or not at your discretion. I used a red fresno pepper--conveniently also available for next to nothing at the Asian market--but jalapeno, serrano, or whatever other hot pepper you have on hand would also work well.
Stir it all up and let cook for about five minutes, or until everything is amazing and fragrant and you essentially just want to dive into the pan.
Cube some oyster mushrooms and shred a wedge of cabbage. The sizes and shapes don't really matter that much here; just cut them however you like. It's also fine to use button or other mushrooms if you have them on hand.
Add the mushrooms to the pan, stir, and cook for several minutes before adding your cabbage. Give the cabbage five minutes or so to wilt.
Next, add vegetable broth, bring the whole business to a boil, and reduce the heat to simmer. If you want tofu in your soup, cube some up and add it to the hot broth. Since soft tofu is fragile, try not to whack it around too much. Now is also a good time to cook your ramen. Mine took about four minutes, but timing will depend on the brand.
When your ramen is cooked, add it to the soup, turn off the heat, and start seasoning. I tend to add small amounts of soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine vinegar, a larger amount of sriracha or other hot pepper sauce, and just a few drops of sesame oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Start small and add more gradually, being especially careful not to oversalt via an overabundance of soy sauce.
Serve your soup with chopped green onion greens and cilantro scattered over the top. You can always switch out the cilantro for basil or just eliminate it if you think it tastes like soap. You can also grind some black pepper over your bowl if hot pepper plus sriracha sauce is not enough of a spice kick for you. I have definitely been known to do this on occasion, but I also have a fairly high spice tolerance.
Now drink up your bowl of hot soup and eat your ramen and veg. You might need both spoon and chopsticks for this one.
Pass the kleenex. Feel better, whether you have the flu or not.
What new ingredients have you discovered lately?