Monday, November 12, 2012

Umeboshi Noodles with Black Soybeans and Collard Green Ribbons in Soy Broth...

I know with all the toppings it's kind of hard to see all
the awesomeness in this bowl

If you know me, or If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you probably know that Asian Cuisine is one of my favorites. I love the duality between the simple fresh ingredients and the bold complex flavors that are so characteristic of Asian cooking. I also love bowls and one pot meals, especially on cold days. Well, today was a cold day, and I was feeling particularly inspired thanks in part to the reading I’ve been required to do for my Chinese Medicine class, as well as my most recent trip to Mitsuwa, the Japanese Market in Arlington Heights.

My last trip to Mitsuwa was a couple of weeks ago, and I was on a mission for Miso and a variety of Japanese noodles. These are things I can find easily in the health food stores in my area, however they’re roughly half the price at Mitsuwa, which is way more economical considering how much miso I go through. As for the noodles I found exactly what I wanted, a ton of Udon, Soba and Somen, and then I found some packages of Green Tea flavored noodles, and Ume flavored noodles. Ume of course referring to Umeboshi, the tart, sour, slightly sweet plum typically used as a paste or made into vinegar in Japanese cooking. I’d never seen Ume noodles anywhere else before, nor had I even heard of them, but they were bright pink and beautiful, and contained no weird or nefarious ingredients and so I bought a package.

I really had no idea what I was going to do with them once I got them home, and so they’ve just been sitting in my pantry for the past couple of weeks. Until today. Today, for whatever reason was the day I decided to give them a try. Initially I was a bit stumped as to what to pair them with, or what kind of dish to put them into because I wasn’t sure what their flavor would really be like. Eventually I decided to go with traditional Asian seasonings such as garlic, ginger, sesame, and tamari, and picked my vegetables according to what I had on hand and what I thought might make the most startling contrast. Green, orange and black I thought would all look fantastic against the bright pink noodles, and I had really been trying to find a use for the solitary can of Black Soybeans left over in my pantry from a squash stew I made a couple of months ago.

Now, I’ll be honest, at first I wasn’t sure how this would turn out. I was kind of just flying by the seat of my pants so to speak. Whenever you just start tossing things together there is always the risk that you’ll under season or over season whatever your making, or just make a bad call on an ingredient. So when we sat down to eat I was a little hesitant and a bit skeptical, particularly of the noodles since I had no idea what to expect from them. Turns out there was no real need to worry because this delicious hearty bowl really blew me away. The flavors were exactly what I was looking for, rich - complex - and warming, and the entire thing came together in the most delicious way. The Ume noodles in particular were fantastic, and now I can’t wait for my next trip to Mitsuwa so I can buy myself some more packages. If you see Ume Noodles in your area pick some up, and make this dish!

Umeboshi Noodles with Black Soybeans and Collard Green Ribbons in Soy Broth.

8oz Umeboshi Noodles
1-2 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Thumb Sized Piece of Ginger grated
1 Medium Sized Leek sliced
1 Bunch Collards - ribs removed cut in ribbons
4 oz Enoki Mushrooms
1 15oz can Black Soybeans
A Few Dashes of Ume Vinegar
1 tsp Japanese 7 Spice

For Broth 

1 1/3 C Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Low-Sodium Tamari
½ Tbsp Agave nectar

For Garnish 

1 Large Grated Carrot
½ Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar per bowl
2 tsp Sesame Seeds per bowl

- Cook Ume Noodles according to package directions. Then drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop cooking and set aside, until ready to serve.

- While Noodles are cooking heat 1 Tbsp of sesame oil in a large skillet. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger and sliced leek. Saute over medium-high heat until the leek has softened, and garlic is fragrant. About 5-7 minutes.

- Add in the collard green ribbons, then cover and cook for three minutes. Then add in the enoki mushrooms and cook another 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and the collard greens are bright green and tender. If the pan starts looking dry during this time you can add an additional 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil.

- Lower the heat and stir in the black soybeans, ume vinegar, and 7 spice seasoning. Replace the lid and let sit over low heat until the soy beans are warmed through then turn the heat off. And set the pan aside until ready to serve.

- To make the broth whisk the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and ume vinegar in small sauce pan. Then bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Let simmer one minute then turn off the heat.

- To serve divide the noodles into two bowls. Then divide the broth and the collard green mixture evenly among them. Top each bowl with grated carrot, sesame seeds and the rice vinegar.

PS: Black Soybeans by the way are pretty interesting. They look like a black bean but a bit lighter, and taste a regular soybean or maybe a blander edamame. Outside of health food or specialty stores I don’t know how easy it is to find them, the brand I used was Eden Organic’s but if you can’t find them you could always sub in regular soybeans, edamame or black beans if you want to keep the contrast. Shiitake mushrooms would also be good if you don't have Enoki.

Once I mixed it all up you could better see those lovely
Pink Ume Noodles!

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