Thursday, July 15, 2010

Soba Noodles with Shiitakes

It's no secret that I love to cook. However, I have had my share of flops in the kitchen and 8 times out of ten the culprit is Chinese/Asian food. I love and adore this kind of food and crave it on regular basis. When we are in Denver we make it a point to either go to PF Changs or Pei Wei (or Tokoyo Joes) if not both, multiple times. Now I know they are chain restaurants people, and there are probably so many other, better more authentic choices out there, but I don't know about them. So, if you know the Denver area well and like this type of food, please send me a shout-out!

While this type of cuisine is delicious it tends to be daunting in the kitchen. That whole balancing perfectly the salty, sour, sweet, spicy thing just messes me up. I have made decent Pad Thai, but it wasn't great or anything. I have made good cold Asian cucumber salads, but come on, not too many people could screw that up. I did make good orange shrimp once, come to think about it...hmmm, I might have to dig that recipe out and test it again. OK, but my stir-fry's are pathetic and most of the time taste like burnt soy sauce and just the other week I made an atrocious (and I mean that) Asian salmon noodle bowl. It was foul. I don't even know how I could mess it up that badly. Well, in my defense, the recipe itself was messed up first, but I did absolutely nothing to save it. I managed to make it worse, actually.

Anyway, given my track record, I was shocked I tell you, when I made this (which is Chinese-ish) and it tasted really good. Dang good actually. It wasn't especially complex and maybe that is why I succeeded. Whatever the reason, I am feeling victorious! And after you make this, you will too.

It's light but hearty. It's a great summer dish but would be equally good in cold weather and just take note; it tastes better if you eat it with chop sticks. I admit, I steal a couple wooden ones whenever I am at Pei Wei. I know, its horrible. Please don't think less of me. The only thing is I would have liked something else to go with this. My husband thought it was great on its own so it's not a must, but a little cold Asian cucumber salad would have been nice. Or dessert. I guess if I had had dessert after I might not have felt this way. You make the call!

Soba noodles with Shiitakes and Cabbage
adapted from Gourmet Magazine August 2007

For the sauce:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons korean hot-pepper paste (or sriracha, which is what I used)
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

For Noodles:
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ginger ( I omitted this b/c I don't enjoy ginger)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
10 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
6-8 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
6 scallions, thinly sliced
8 to 9 ounces soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)
1 cup frozen or fresh shelled edamame

Stir together all sauce ingredients until brown sugar is dissolved, then set aside.

Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat, stirring until pale golden, then transfer to a small bowl.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then saute ginger and garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shiitakes and saute, stirring frequently, until tender and starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add cabbage and most of the scallions (reserve some for garnish) and cook stirring occasionally, until cabbage is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add sauce and simmer 2 minutes.

While cabbage is cooking, cook soba and edamame together in a pasta pot of boiling, salted water until noodles are just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and remove excess starch, then drain well again. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with vegetable mixture. Serve sprinkled with reserved scallions and sesame seeds.

*If you aren't able to find Korean hot-pepper paste (or sriracha) substitute 3/4 teaspoon chinese chili paste and reduce the amount of soy sauce to 1/4 cup.

Serves 4

I didn't feel like spending $18 for all the fresh shiitakes called for in this recipe. If you don't either, just buy one carton (usually 3-4oz) of fresh shiitakes and one pouch of dried shiitakes. Reconstitute the dried shiitakes in a small bowl of very warm water for about 45 minutes. Save some of the water you soaked the mushrooms in for the 1/3 cup water called for in the sauce. it will add more flavor. Just make sure to only use the first third of the liquid so you don't get any of the grit at the bottom that have fallen off the mushrooms. Then slice up all the mushrooms and saute as directed, except them remove them from the pan and set aside. That way, you can sprinkle the mushrooms on top of every ones dish rather than them being randomly mixed in. Then, you can make sure everyone has a nice portion.

Did I mention how healthy this is for you? Buckwheat is actually a vegetable and that is what soba noodles are made from. It's awesome.