Fried Noodles (or Yakisoba)
In 2012, we had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Japan, specifically in Northern Honshu and Southeastern Hokkaido. We arrived in Sendi in the evening and once we were settled into our hotel, food was the priority. We walked out into the night in hopes of finding a convenience store to hold us over until morning but what we found was a marvelous street festival centered around a Shinto shrine. There were vendors selling all kinds of food and the one we tried first turned out to be yakisoba or fried noodles. It became one of our favorite meals while we were in Japan.
Yakisoba is widely available in noodle shops, train stations and izakaya, the Japanese equivalent of the English “gastropub” in which one can order not only food but also a cold sake (we visited in the summer). Instant yakisoba bowls have started showing up here in the United States in grocery stores but it is easy to make your own. For the following Yakisoba you’ll want 3 pieces of the fried Monk’s Loaf, which will substitute for commonly used fish cakes or other meat.
FOR MORE ABOUT BENTO AND ITS COMMON RECIPES, SEE JAPANESE BENTO.
• 4-6 dried shītake mushrooms
• 1 pound fresh ramen noodles (or 3/4 pound dry)
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 3 pieces of cooked Monk's Loaf, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1 tablespoon grated or mashed ginger root
• 3 cups shredded bok choi, napa, or other oriental cabbage
• 1 tablespoon mirin
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1/2 teaspoon sichimi togarashi (7-spice powder)
• 2 Japanese leeks, minced
• Salt to taste
1. Soak mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes. Squeeze dry. Slice thinly.
2. Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add the ramen. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly so that the noodles do not stick to the bottom of the pot. When al dente, drain and rinse in cool water. Drain well and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. Set aside.
3. Heat remaining oil in a wok or large skillet. When almost smoking, add in onion and ginger root and stir fry for 2 minutes.
4. Add cabbage and mushrooms and stir fry for another 3 minutes.
5. Add Monk's Loaf cubes and sprinkle with mirin. Cook another 1 minute. Add ramen and fry until hot.
6. Remove from heat and toss with soy sauce, sichimi togarashi, leeks and salt.
Jeff Nekola has a PhD in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has a passion for biodiversity in its many forms, whether it be plants, butterflies, and land snails in the wild or crops grown in gardens, orchards and fields, or the use of those foods as expressed by the entire range of humanity's cuisines. You can learn more here.
Linda Fey's first and finest childhood memories are of helping her mother and grandmother in the garden and then bringing in freshly picked produce to the dinner table. As an adult, she has over 20 years of experience in market gardening and teaches middle-school English at the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science. Visit www.LindaFey.com to view her writing about food and life.