Wednesday, February 2, 2011

noodle night!

Oh yes, my friends. Noodles. NOOOOOO-DAAAAHHHHLLSS!!!!! And I am not talkin Top Ramen here, kids. I'm talkin real, true to cherry blossom Japanese noodles, people.


I love noodles. I don't think I know of anyone who doesn't like noodles. Noodles are yummy, relatively easy to make, and satisfying. Unfortunately, noodles have gained a bit of a bad rap for being unhealthy. Lots of carbs.... and if topped with high calorie toppings, even worse. Fear not, there are noodles that can be healthy and delicious. There are even noodles with no calories. And no, I'm not kidding. There is such a noodle in the world with literally zero calories, and I'm going to tell you about it. Better yet, I'm gonna show you a way to cook them. (Raaahhh!!! the crowd cheers!!!!!!!!)

As I've previously mentioned, however, not everyone who frequents my apartment for dinner should be eating zero calorie anything... because they happen to burn through enough calories to sustain a baker's dozen of five-year-olds, (cough cough-Brian). In fact, they should be eating hearty but healthy noodles with good useful calories (as opposed to empty-calorie-noodles like Tom Ramen). So, I will show you how to make two kinds of noodles: Soba (Japanese buckwheat) noodles and Shirataki (yam) noodles. Hold your applause, I haven't even started yet!

Noodle Night:

You'll Need:
1 bundle of soba noodles
1 package of Shirataki noodles 
about 1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 tsp hoisen sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp teriyaki marinade
1 bundle of asparagus (about 1 lb.)
1/2 red onion
1 tsp fresh ginger (grated) 
olive oil
3 eggs
1 tsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
vegetable oil
about 9 oz. of smoked turkey sausage (I used this as my protein in the dish, but you could substitute for tofu, chicken, or any other type of protein you want!)

A note on noodles (a noodle-note!)
Soba noodles come  packaged in little bundle-servings and can be found at most grocery stores and certainly at all Asian grocers. They typically come in packages containing 5-10 bundle/servings.
Also, true Shirataki noodles are typically only found at Asian grocery stores, but a more American version with tofu incorporated can be found at most chain grocery stores- these, however, have about 20 calories or so per serving. 

click to enlarge
So, let's start with the Shirataki noodles. I know you must be dying to know about them, and to see if I'm just pulling your leg about the whole no-calorie thing. Well, no. I'm not, look: 

As you can clearly see, there are absolutely no calories in these noodles. Consequently, there is also absolutely no flavor in them either. There is, however, a strange smell that accompanies them right after you open the package. Don't worry, I'll go over how to get rid of it. And please don't let it deter you. The smell is really not an indication of something going awry, it's just how it is!

So, open up the package and drain the contents directly into a colander stationed in your sink. Run cold water over the noodles for about two minutes. Periodically use your hands to shuffle them around in the colander to loosen them up.The smell of the noodles will go away, I assure you. As you can see, the noodles I used are pure white. There is another variety (also 0 calorie) that is a light brown color. These are simply colored using seaweed, and also have no flavor. You can easily use those in this recipe, and there'd be no difference.

While the noodles are rinsing off, pour the chicken broth into a medium saucepan along with the hoisen, rice wine vinegar, and teryaki marinade. Mix it thoroughly and let it do its thing over medium heat. This will eventually become good friends with the noodles, and will the the source of all of their flavor. I ended up dropping a small clove of garlic in there as an afterthought. After the noodles are thoroughly rinsed, shake the colander to get rid of excess water and add the noodles to your broth mixture. Lower the heat to medium/low and cover it. These will remain this way until you're ready to serve.

Next, the Soba noodles. These are a bit more like the Western pastas that we're used to. It comes in bundles that are a serving size each. Just boil water in a large pot, drop the noodles in, let it come to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Then, drain, rinse with cool water, and return to the pot. At this point, I like to add a good amount of salt as well as a little sesame oil if you've got it. 

For these noodles, I've picked a few healthy toppings. Partly because they're yummy, and partly because they were what I had on hand. If you have another favorite veggie you'd like to put on top of the noodles, by all means, go ahead. But this went well:

Wash the asparagus and snap off the woody ends. Chop the red onion into a size of your liking. Put these onto a baking sheet, give them a light drizzle of olive oil, add salt and pepper, and grate the fresh ginger on top. If you don't have ginger, you could always try lemon or maybe garlic. Put these into the oven at 400ยบ for about 20 minutes (or until they're fork-tender).

Next comes the tamago-yaki. That's a Japanese egg omlette. Crack the three eggs into a bowl and add the sugar and soy sauce. Beat these together with a fork or whisk. Put a nonstick pan onto the stove at medium/low heat and spread a little vegetable oil onto it with a paper towel. For most people who have not done a rolled tamago-yaki, I just tell them to scramble the eggs. But, for those of you who are feeling adverturous, check out the video to see the method of how to roll the tamago-yaki:(fyi I did not make this video, but I thought it did a good job of showing the method)

I later learned from my mother that the goal of making a tamago-yaki is to have the whole thing be an even yellow color, and not brown at all. I, of course, have not mastered the technique, so mine turned out a little brown. Oh well!

Lastly is the turkey sausage. The kind I bought came pre-cooked, so all you've got to do is pop it onto a pan and heat it through. Easy enough.

Finally, get yourself some bowls, one for the Shirataki and one for the Soba, put the noodles in (and broth with the Shirataki) and add the toppings! HORRAAAAAYYY!

noodle night noodle night

Brian's Soba

My Shirataki


Just some other notes about noodles:
Soba is absurdly more healthy than noodles like Top Ramen or the cuppa noodle type noodles. They are made from buckwheat, which isn't what we in America are used to in our pasta/noodles. It doesn't have the same bite that whole wheat pasta does, it actually has a softer feel. Traditionally, Soba is served cold and is considered a summer-time food in Japan.

Shirataki noodles have no calories (as if I haven't yapped on about that enough) and are most commonly used in the Japanese dish, Sukiyaki, a soup that usually consists of a flavorful broth, thinly sliced beef, and vegetables.

Well, I know that was a long one, and it certainly wasn't a 20 minute meal. But, if you're feeling adventurous, nothing would make me happier than to hear about your experience with this (or a similar) recipe! Drop me a comment, we'll talk noodles.

Foodie Foodie!!!

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